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  • Gary Probst

Riding the Roller Coaster with Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Riding the Roller Coaster

Untreated Bipolar Disorder

People fear the diagnosis, although it is one of the easiest mental health maladies to treat---if people follow their medication regimen. Bipolar Disorder seems to be on the rise. I am developing my PhD dissertation on the theory that many of what are known as Axis II, Cluster B Personality Disorders are truly severe forms of a Bipolar Disorder. The symptoms overlap. One of my fellow students at Grand Canyon University is conducting her dissertation on what seems to be a rise in diagnosed Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. So, what’s going on?

The answer may be, nothing new. It could be counselors and doctors have misdiagnosed bipolar conditions for decades. The recent spike in diagnosis of children with ADHD may actually be young people struggling with the first symptoms of a Bipolar Disorder. Are we medicating children and adults in the wrong fashion—for the wrong malady? Let’s consider a few things.

Children with ADHD often have fits of frustration and a need for rapid activity and stimulation. This is not outside the boundaries of the manic stage of a Bipolar Disorder. I’ve had children and even teens with a diagnosis of ADHD in my office, screaming at parents, moving about wildly, even breaking furniture and striking out against parents. Is this simply because their brains can’t focus? Do we put them on amphetamines and risk ramping up the manic activity? Do they show improvement over depressive episodes because of the amphetamines? Are we putting the kids on a roller coaster?

Surely, there are children who benefit from the use of ADHD medications. In a rather odd chemical paradox, the stimulation of the amphetamines seems to help them focus and calm down. However, when those meds do not change behavior and mood instabilities, the diagnosis may be incorrect. It may be Bipolar Disorder.

Another diagnosis that is often used for misbehaving children is Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I am a bit skeptical of this one. Doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants for this. Well, if the child is Bipolar, then the more efficient use of Serotonin, caused by regulation of the brain’s serotonin reuptake process, may create a bigger problem during the child’s manic stages. When the manic stage drives the child, or adult, to thrash about emotionally and attempt grandiose actions, giving them a boost of Serotonin may not be a good idea.

It could be that medical professionals dislike using the Bipolar label. That’s understandable. People are very fearful of it, although a mood stabilizer like Lamotrigine can work wonders. The proper medication for a mood disorder can make all the difference in the world.

Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance, much like the diabetic who needs insulin. With the insulin, a normal life is possible. Without it, pain and potentially death follow. Bipolar Disorder is not a death sentence. It is merely understanding a need for the brain’s enzymes to be regulated, giving the person being treated a very good shot at a very normal and happy life. Without the right treatment, the person suffers and may eventually commit suicide.

If somebody in your family may have Bipolar symptoms ( do not be fearful. Get it treated. Don’t accept the first diagnosis as gospel. Do your own investigation. Untreated Bipolar Disorder is a colossal waste of human abilities and a sentence of unhappiness and pain. Keep your mind open to new concepts and keep asking questions.

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