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Patient Education

Patient Education Resources

Learn more about common psychiatric disorders and what you can do to help a loved one living with mental health difficulties.

Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar disorder in children is often confused with ADHD. Because of overlapping symptoms, it’s often extremely difficult to differentiate bipolar disorder from ADHD, and it’s not uncommon for someone to have both disorders.

The younger the child, the more difficult it is to diagnose bipolar disorder, as younger children tend not to have discreet cycles and other symptoms as do adults.

Many children who are severely hyperactive and rageful as children, and are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder as children, often do not have the diagnosis as young adults. When there is doubt about the diagnosis, a slow reduction in medications that potentially have significant side effects, is a reasonable option.

There are no easy answers, and these problems are something that requires educating yourself and doing what you feel is in the best interest of your child throughout his/her childhood.

Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can be enormously difficult. The spouses, parents, children and friends of people with bipolar disorder are often its forgotten victims. It can wreak havoc on marriages, careers, friendships, finances and emotions.

If you’re helping someone through bipolar disorder, you face a difficult balancing act. On one hand, you have to be supportive and sympathetic; you can’t blame a person for the effects of an illness. But on the other, you can’t sacrifice all of your own needs to care for another person.

There’s no easy solution: But here are some tips that might help you cope with a bipolar loved one.

Learn. The first step is to read about bipolar disorder. Go to the bookstore or the library. Get information from reputable websites. Find out about the symptoms and treatments.

Listen. Pay attention to what your loved one has to say. Don’t assume that you know what he or she is going through. Don’t treat your loved one’s emotions and feelings as if they are all signs of an illness. Just because someone has bipolar disorder doesn’t mean his or her point of view isn’t valid.

Ask how you can help. During bad periods, everyday things can be overwhelming to people with bipolar disorder. Reducing stress at home helps. Offering a ride to a doctor’s appointment or help with laundry or child care can mean a lot.

Keep track of symptoms. In many cases, you may notice emotional changes in your loved one before they do. So think about keeping records. Catching changes in mood early — and getting treatment for them — can make a big difference. However, you walk a fine line, if you’re too intrusive, your loved one might feel like you’re spying.

Encourage your loved one to stick with treatment. It’s key that your loved one stay on their medication and get regular checkups. Your loved one may also need encouragement to eat well, get enough sleep and stay away from alcohol and drugs.

Do things together. People who are depressed often pull away from the world. Encourage your friend or loved one to get out and do things they enjoy. Ask him or her to join you for a walk or a dinner out. If he or she resists, don’t force the issue. Instead, just gently ask again a few days later.

Make an explicit plan. Because bipolar disorder is an unpredictable illness, you should plan for bad times. Be explicit. Agree on what to do if symptoms get worse. Have a plan for emergencies. If you both know what to do and what to expect of each other, you’ll feel more confident about the future.

Express your own concerns. Since your loved one’s behavior can have a huge effect on you, you have the right to talk about it. However, don’t blame the other person. Don’t list all of his or her mistakes. Instead, focus on how your loved one’s actions make you feel and how they affect you. Since this can be a very difficult subject, you might find it easiest to discuss it together with a therapist.

Accept your limits. Supporting your loved one can be key to their recovery. But you have to remember that you can’t single-handedly make them better. You can’t take care of him or her every second of the day. So get other people involved. Ask for the help of other family members or friends. Don’t bear the burden on your own.

Take care of yourself. It’s easy to lose sight of your own needs when you’re taking care of someone else, but it is important to stay healthy, emotionally and physically. If you push yourself too far, you’ll just burn out — and that’s no good for anyone.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is among only a few mental disorders that are triggered by a disturbing outside event, quite unlike other psychiatric disorders, such as depression.

Many Americans experience individual traumatic events, ranging from car and airplane accidents to sexual assault and domestic violence. Other experiences including those associated with natural disasters — such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes — affect multiple people simultaneously. Dramatic and tragic events occur, and with media exposure such as we have today, even people not directly involved might be affected. Simply put, PTSD is a state in which you “can’t stop remembering.”

Although the disorder must be diagnosed by a mental health professional, symptoms of PTSD are clearly defined. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual must have been in a situation in which they were afraid for your safety of their life or have experienced something that made them feel fear, helplessness or horror.

The worse the trauma, the more likely a person will develop PTSD and the worse the symptoms. The most severely affected are unable to work, have trouble with relationships and have great difficulty parenting their children.

Clinical Depression

Most people feel sad or low at some point in life. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning. In addition, one may have other symptoms with major depression. Those symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or being slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month)

To distinguish the condition as major depression, one’s symptom must be either depressed mood or loss of interest. Also, the symptoms must be present for most of the day every day or nearly every day for at least two weeks.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can’t seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive — not stopping to think before they act. These behaviors are generally common in children. But they occur more often than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD.

The behaviors that are common with ADHD interfere with a child’s ability to function at school and at home.

Inattention — A child with ADHD:

  • Is easily distracted
  • Does not follow directions or finish tasks
  • Does not appear to be listening when someone is speaking
  • Does not pay attention and makes careless mistakes
  • Is forgetful about daily activities
  • Has problems organizing daily tasks
  • Avoids or dislikes activities that require sitting still or a sustained effort
  • Often loses things, including personal items
  • Has a tendency to daydream

Hyperactivity — A child with ADHD:

  • Often squirms, fidgets or bounces when sitting
  • Does not stay seated as expected
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things (in teens and adults, this is more commonly described as a sense of restlessness)
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity — A child with ADHD:

  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  • Blurts out answers before the question has been completed
  • Often interrupts others

Tips to Handle the Stress of Parenting…

  1. Keep your relationship with your spouse strong. Parents should support one another. If you don’t have a spouse, establish a support system of friends and family.
  2. Try to make time each day for yourself or do something for yourself.
  3. When stress takes over, remind yourself how lucky you are to have your child and how fortunate you are to see your child grow up.
  4. When feeling overwhelmed, try to arrange for outside help so you can focus your energies on parenting.
  5. Be aware children sometimes make mistakes, are inconsistent and act selfishly and thoughtlessly. These are all aspects of an average child.
  6. Vary your routine to keep day-to-day parenting rewarding.
  7. Let the child in yourself “come out and play” with your child.
  8. Be easy on yourself when things you try don’t work out as planned.
  9. Be aware parenting may require you to postpone some of your own needs and desires.
  10. Be sure to spend time with friends. They are a good resource regarding parenting concerns.

For community trainings on mental health topics and our suicide prevention and education trainings, please contact Tom DeMarco, Director of Community Development at 217-585-1180 or [email protected].