Bipolar disorder in children is the new up and coming diagnosis. Why that is, can be a lengthy discussion. While I agree that it, like many other things, could be over-diagnosed, I also believe that our continued efforts to understand childhood mental health have led to some valid discoveries regarding the suffering of children.
Plus - I have one of these kids! You can read My Story to learn more about my son.
Because bipolar disorder in children, or the less intrusive sounding "Mood Disorder, NOS" (not otherwise specified) presents as behaviors and temperaments that can easily be misinterpreted as ADHD behaviors.
There continue to be practitioners who refuse to diagnose, consider, or treat bipolar disorder as a first line of defense in children. All I can say, is that I absolutely encounter children on a fairly regular basis who meet the criteria and respond favorably to medication intervention.
In the meantime, here are some examples the Papolos' give of the differences:
ADHD children might break things accidentally whereas bp children break things in anger
temper tantrums in ADHD children are the result of sensory or emotional overstimulation whereas bp children react to limit setting like hearing "no"
ADHD children misbehave due to oblivious inattention, whereas bp children might intentionally do so
ADHD children might engage in risky behavior because they are unaware of the danger whereas bp children purposefully risk seek
There can also be specific disparities in behaviors among different age groups of children. For more information regarding the specific age groups of bipolar toddlers, children, or teens, visit therapist
Kristen McClure's site.
So here, I implore upon you; if anywhere in your family history are mood disorders of any kind (this includes bp), PLEASE make sure the diagnosing physician or psychiatrist is very aware of that history.
With a proper diagnosis you will potentially save yourself and your child months, maybe years of ineffective and potentially dangerous treatment.
If you are, or feel you might be, the parent of a mood disordered child, you should also check out
It is a great website with extensive message boards and forums where parents can learn a lot from each other.