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Frequently Asked Questions
* What are the special challenges of raising a child with bipolar disorder?
Raising a child with bipolar disorder can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Your child's quickly changing and difficult moods may make you feel as if you are walking on eggshells and parenting an ever changing target. It can also be challenging to recognize the more subtle ways that bipolar disorder affects your child. Dealing with well meaning people who don't understand bipolar disorder can also be a source of challenge and frustration.
* How does my child's stability level affect parenting?
Your parenting must meet your child's health needs. During times of extreme instability, the most important thing is the safety of your child and all in the family. This is a time when stress needs to be reduced on all fronts, both at school and home. As your child achieves a certain amount of wellness, your parenting may need to shift in order to help your child in the areas of emotional growth that were missed during times of instability. It is also important as your child stabilizes to identify any additional roadblocks, such as learning disabilities, as these can co-exist with bipolar.
* What if I'm concerned about misdiagnosis?
It is important to have a correct diagnosis. Misdiagnosis can be harmful, as it either ignores an important health condition or identifies it incorrectly, leading to improper treatment. Parents must become educated advocates for their child. Learn about bipolar disorder yourself. Also learn what other conditions can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder and make sure these are ruled out. Referring to the treatment guidelines in the link below will help you with this. Also find a qualified doctor who does a thorough evaluation. Seek a second or even third opinion when necessary.
* What if I have very negative feelings about my child?
Because bipolar disorder is a chronic illness, it continually effects family life and taxes your parenting abilities. Parents sometimes experience caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, or secondary trauma as a result of their child's illness. This can happen especially after a child has been unstable for an extended period of time. Parents who begin to feel num, or very negative toward their child with bipolar disorder, may be at this stage. In order to take care of your child with bipolar disorder, you must also take care of yourself. Make your own appointment with the doctor.
* Do I have reason to hope for my child's future?
Children with bipolar disorder can go on to live very full and happy lives. Many of them are creative, gifted and talented individuals. Helping them find their talents and value their positive qualities can help them to lead enriched lives. There are now FDA approved medications for children with bipolar disorder, and new treatments are continually being researched to help people with bipolar disorder.
* Where can I get more help to parent my child?
To get more information on parenting your child with bipolar disorder effectively, click the "books" link above. The Childhood Bipolar Disorder Answer Book can help you as you continue on this difficult parenting journey. Also make sure to surround yourself with supportive people. Look for a local support group through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) or Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (www.dbsalliance.org). You can also find an online support group at The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (www.bpkids.org). Also please read the articles found below and check out the list of support organizations at the bottom of this page.
For Parents
Intense Parenting: 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know!
How to Help Children and Families Living with Bipolar Disorder
Brain Abnormalities Associated with Bipolar Disorder
What Areas of the Brain May Show Abnormalities in Childhood Bipolar Disorder
Advice from Other Parents
Helping the Youngest Victims of Bipolar Disorder (a parent interview)
Extra Challenges (Celiac Disease) An interview with a young person
Lorenzo's Story
Colton's Story
Prejudicial Treatment of Children and Families with Bipolar Disorder
Media Coverage of Bipolar Disorder: A Teenager's Perspective
Parents’ Medication Guide for Bipolar Disorder in Children & Adolescents by The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction Associated with Psychiatric Disabilities
Treatment Guidelines for Children With BP
About Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (CABF article)
Frequently Asked Questions About Early Onset Bipolar Disorder
Find a Doctor
Bipolar Child Newsletters
Mood Disorders - (a religious perspective) A series of articles that includes a comforting scriptural discussion.
The Balanced Mind Foundation
(Formerly Known as The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation)
820 Davis St., Ste. 520
Evanston, IL 60201
847-492-8519 Phone
847-492-8520 Fax
Web: www.thebalancedmind.org
The Collaborative Problem Solving Institute
313 Washington St., Suite 402
Newton Corner, MA 02458
Phone: 617-965-3000
Web: www.thinkkids.org
Depressive and Bipolar Support Alliance
730 N Franklin St., Suite 501
Chicago, IL 60610-7224
Phone: 800-826-3632
Web: www.dbsalliance.org
Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
9605 Medical Center Dr., Suite 280
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 240-403-1901
Web: www.ffcmh.org
International Society for Bipolar Disorders
P.O. Box 7168
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-0168
Phone: 412-605-1412
Web: www.isbd.org
Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation
550 Ridgewood Rd.
Maplewood, NJ 07040
Phone: 866-333-JBRF
Web: www.jbrf.org
The National Alliance on Mental Illness
Colonial Place Three
2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201-3042
Phone: 888-999-6264
Web: www.nami.org
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Blvd., Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Phone: 866-615-6464
Web: www.nimh.nih.gov
National Mental Health Association
2001 N Beauregard St., 12th Floor
Alexandria, VA 22311
Phone: 800-969-NMHA
Web: www.nmha.org