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Bipolar Disorder In Kids

Depressive Symptoms continued...

Cohn Markell is concerned that an inaccurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder can "label" a kid for life. "Many of the symptoms that are listed for bipolar disorder can be caused by other things from abuse and neglect to physical illnesses such as epilepsy, encephalitis, brain tumor, or head injury."

When parents bring a child with severe mood swings to him, Cohn Markell learns about the child's environment -- by observing the child himself and/or by giving the parents and teachers an observational scale ("If the behavior isn't the same at home and at school, then something else might be going on," he says). He also takes a history to determine how long the symptoms have been present and refers the child to a pediatrician to rule out physical illness.

If a child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, says Cohn Markell, he recommends counseling, special classes or schools, and support services for the child and family.

Judith Lederman agrees. "There's so much to know and so much to deal with," she says. But it's important to know that you're not alone. There is support out there. But you have to seek it out."

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD, August 22, 2002.

Reviewed on August 22, 2002

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