Bipolar disorder and ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are two conditions that are increasingly being diagnosed in American children and teens, often together. And interestingly, in children and teens, there are some similarities in the symptoms of the two conditions. But how can a doctor know for sure if the child has bipolar disorder or ADHD? Also, how does the treatment for these two conditions differ?
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"It's so important for parents to show all of their children -- both the child with ADHD and the kids without -- that they are equally loved. But given the needs of a child with ADHD, it takes work to keep it balanced."
Keeping It Equal
When there's a child with ADHD in the family, it's common for their siblings to feel jealous and to act out if they sense their parents' attention shifting away from them.
"It works like a squeaky wheel," says Los Angeles psychotherapist Jenn Berman, PhD. "The child who is being the loudest gets the most attention from the parents."
Usually, that's the child with ADHD, so it's normal for parents to spend most of their energy focusing on meeting that child's special needs, whether it's in therapy, extra time at home doing homework, or a special effort on managing disobedience or impulsivity.
The behavior of children with ADHD can also make them hard to get along with as a peer, which means their brothers or sisters simply might not like being around them.
"The child who doesn't have ADHD might prefer to be at a friend's house than at home, might not invite other kids over to hang out, or might be embarrassed socially," says Dickson, who has a child with ADHD.
School is another outlet for kids who have a brother or sister with ADHD.
"It can be a reprieve where kids can get away from the stress they might be experiencing at home, or kids can use it as an opportunity to act out for attention," says Mark Wolraich, MD, a pediatrics professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The bottom line is that parents need to share the love and the attention with all their children, whether or not they have ADHD.