Bipolar disorder, in children, is often exhibited by complicated fluctuations in mood including sudden temper tantrums, complex hyperactivity behavior, often misdiagnosed as ADHD, and even insomnia or excessive sleepiness. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many children with Bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed or under diagnosed leading to complications in academic, social and personal relationship and performance. For parents, obtaining proper mental health diagnosis in a child can be challenging and, once diagnosed, treatment options for pediatric mental health disorders can be just as complex.
In addition to Bipolar disorder, some children will suffer a co morbid mental health complication involving Separation anxiety disorder. While Bipolar disorder, into adulthood, often leads to the development of anxiety or panic disorders, it is the child who demonstrates separation anxiety symptoms who is found to eventually suffer from more complex mental health disorders into adulthood, often Bipolar disorder.
Separation anxiety disorder, in children, is simply defined as a psychological trait in which a child experiences severe distress when separated from a loved one or a place which is felt to be a comfort zone. In children suffering from Separation anxiety disorder, this emotional distress is often exhibited when the child is separated from a parent or caretaker which, in turn, leads to symptoms, beginning around the age of grade school, ranging from simple complaints of illness to severe complications such as temper tantrums and physical outbursts during and immediately after the child is separated from the parent. As a normal part of parenting, the child’s parents are often left frustrated when coping with a child suffering from severe Separation anxiety outbursts.
For children experiencing co morbid Separation anxiety disorder and Bipolar disorder, the behavior can be quite complex and even more frustrating for parents. With periods of mania mixed with periods of manic depression, the child suffering from both mental health conditions will often exhibit a full spectrum of behaviors during a period of separation from a parent. With manic depressive mental states, the child is more likely to express pain and illness as a form of coping with Separation anxiety while, in contrast periods of mania, the child is more likely to express full blown physical reactions including outbursts at home and school when facing a possible separation.
As a parent caring for a child suffering from co morbid Bipolar disorder and Separation anxiety, it is important to discuss issues and concerns regarding the child’s mental health with a pediatric or child psychiatrist. Commonly, children experiencing co morbid Bipolar disorder and Separation anxiety will respond well with the use of antidepressant medications. However, because antidepressant medications tend to promote the onset of a mania episode, associated with Bipolar disorder in the child, the pediatric psychiatrist may suggest utilizing mood stabilizing drugs in combination with the antidepressant.
Beyond prescription drug use, in controlling a child’s Bipolar disorder and Separation anxiety, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be effective. With a cognitive behavioral therapy approach, in treating a child’s mental health complications, age appropriate therapy is provided with focus on methods to change unproductive thoughts and feelings into more productive thoughts and emotions while also working to equip the child with life skills in methods to modify and take back control over behavior when placed in situations where Bipolar disorder and/or Separation anxiety emotions are most prevalent.
As a parent, caring for child who exhibits extreme fluctuations in mood and behavior, both at home and at school, coupled with a child who may exhibit extreme distress when left by a caretaker or parent, consider consulting a pediatric psychiatrist into the possible diagnosis of Separation anxiety. Often, a child with these symptoms is found to suffer from Separation anxiety which, in most cases, can be treated and cured through cognitive behavioral therapy. However, when coupled with a Bipolar disorder, medication management may be appropriate to improve Bipolar disorder symptoms in the child so as to open the mind of the child for receiving cognitive behavioral therapy in the Separation anxiety attacks.