FAQ About ADHD and Other Related Disorders

Is it my fault?

NO! Do not beat yourself up wondering what you did wrong when you were pregnant or when your child was an infant. There is no conclusive evidence that can answer that question and it will only make you crazy. This is not your fault!

Am I just a bad parent?

First, do you have more than one child? If so, how is the other one doing? If the answer is "fine" then NO, you are not a bad parent. Second, even if you don't have another child, the answer is still "NO." Poor parenting does not create ADHD, bipolar, learning disabilities, whatever. Parenting these children is challenging at it's best and we all (myself included) probably make daily mistakes. But our mistakes are not what's making these kids difficult.

Do I have to take my child to a psychiatrist or can we go to the pediatrician?

First, some pediatricians don't do any kind of mental health evaluation, so you have to answer that question for yourself. Next, if you think you might be dealing with a fairly straight forward case of ADHD, then yes, your pediatrician can handle that and will likely be quicker to get in to see. BUT, if there is a family history of alcohol or drug abuse, bipolar, mood disorders, or depression, then you must see a psychiatrist. A misdiagnosis and mismanaged medication regime can be dangerous.

I'm worried about the medication side effects.

And you should be - but not to the point of denying treatment. Sometimes medication is the only way to stabilize a child before other interventions can be tried. Some meds will work quickly, some need longer to develop what's called a "therapeutic blood level". Some of those require regular blood tests to monitor their safety. Some can be stopped and started easily and some must be started gradually and weaned off gradually. Ask about what to look for and watch closely and work closely with your doctor.

I don't think there is anything wrong with my child but the school will not leave us alone.

I completely understand. If you are not ready to see it, you are not ready. However, schools are not as dumb as we sometimes think. You may worry they are trying to get your "square" child into their "round" hole. And to some extent, they are! All children should find their uniqueness. And as they grow older, they learn how to use that trait to their advantage. But young children also are developing important skills and self esteem. If they are constantly in trouble or singled out in school, their lifelong development of their "self" can be impaired. If you are not ready to consider diagnosis and treatment, then find a different school. But truthfully, schools see a lot and most often, they know what they are talking about. That said - trust your gut. It is probably telling you what to do.

Our doctor says my child is ADHD and bipolar. What now?

The two conditions can easily be comorbid (occuring together). The challenge is in medicating them. You must stabilize the bipolar first! Once that is medically stabilized, you can then consider the addition of small doses of a stimulant medication to address the bipolar. Make sure you are seeing a psychiatrist who knows how to do this.

Is medication the only option in treating ADHD or bipolar disorder?

The truth is that most often medication is a necessary and vital component of a whole treatment plan. Often, anything else you implement will be unsuccessful without medical stability in place. Remember, we are talking about validated neuro and biological conditions. That said, if your child and your family are not yet in a state of crisis with regard to whatever is going on with them, and you are uncomfortable with medication but willing to explore alternative means of treatment, then take the time to do so. The key is to ask yourself how detrimental (or not) are the current behaviors or problems to your child's future development? If you feel you are in a critical stage, you should be willing to consider at least a trial of medication.

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