Bipolar disorder, frequently known as manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by extreme changes in mood and behavior. Although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, many treatment options exist. Most often, physicians recommend a multi-tier approach for treatment, which many include a combination of the following:
- Counseling for child and family to learn coping strategies
- Monitoring and charting moods
- Educating patients and their parents about the disorder
- Communicating with child’s educators to discuss specialized accommodations
- Reducing stress
- Ensuring adequate sleep
- Developing consistent routines
Useful Websites for Parents of Pediatric Bipolar Patients
In addition to these treatment options, there are multiple websites and support groups available for patients and their families affected by the disorder. Many of the websites provide information regarding managing symptoms of the disorder, locating child psychiatrists and counselors in your area, communicating with your child’s education team, and finding support groups for children, parents, and other family members. The following websites are useful tools offering information about pediatric bipolar disorder.
- Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation
- Bipolar Child
These are just a few of the multiple online resources:
As a parent or caregiver of a bipolar child, it is beneficial to track the child’s moods and behavior. A mood chart or journal are both tools that can provide physicians with useful information on duration of manic or depressive episodes, behavioral triggers, and how often the moods/behaviors are occurring. Most importantly, the chart/journal can collect baseline behavioral information, which is useful when assessing effectiveness of prescribed medications.
Numerical data, such as rating behavioral extremes (see mood chart), may be useful when comparing pre-treatment behavior with post-medication behavior. By collecting numerical data, information such as average occurrences of behaviors and ranges of behaviors can be obtained. This is a more “scientific” approach, which may provide more reliable data than summarizing behaviors in a journal.
Graphs are helpful when trying to assess changes, trends, and correlations in data. Once the numerical data is entered into the chart, computer-savvy parents can graph the data, allowing for a more visual view. Microsoft Excel is a useful tool to use when graphing data.
If using a chart seems too cumbersome, journaling is another option. Keeping a notebook detailing (at a minimum) the date and child’s moods or behaviors is useful to refer to during counseling sessions or visits with the physician. Parents/caregiver or the child can maintain the journal. Preferably, the child should record his/her thoughts and feelings, which may be therapeutic for the child. Also, some children are more comfortable writing about personal issues rather than verbally communicating their thoughts.