Bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy offers exclusive insight into the world of bipolar disorder.See all posts »
Bipolar Disorder in Children – Part 2
In the second part of her focus on bipolar disorder in children, bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy provides real-life examples of how symptoms can appear in children.
Examples of Childhood Bipolar Disorder Behavior
Some would suggest that parents or doctors are simply pathologizing normal childhood behavior. However, if you learn about what truly happens in childhood mental illness, it would seem much clearer that something truly is wrong with these children.
Real-life examples of a child with bipolar include:
- “He started tapping and scratching on his bedroom wall while we read to him and night, and said he was talking to his friends who lived in the wall . . . When we told him it was his imagination, he became furious and insisted it was real.”
- “He started coming home from school saying that he could open portals at the base of an oak tree and enter tunnels where he tampered with the electrical lines and plumbing pipes of the school.”
- “He said he was ‘half cat’ and meant it. He started hissing and using his fingernails to scratch at us.”
- “He fashioned an Indian tomahawk on a trip to the woods and took out running after some Frisbee golf players to attack them with it. I actually had a hard time chasing him down because he was running at them so fast with the tomahawk raised over his head in attack mode.”
- “He had several episodes where he was crying and rolling on the floor saying ‘just let me die, let me die’ and ‘please kill me.’ This from a six year old!”
- “Then one day after picking him up after school when he was in the first grade, he said ‘dad, something strange happened in school today. The walls of the classroom disappeared. I was then at the bottom of a mountain where a dragon was swinging his tail, and knocking down the homes of these people who lived on the mountain. I tried to reach them to help, but I could not get to them.’ When I asked him if the other children were there with him, he said ‘no, they kind of faded to gray, but the mountain and dragon were in color.’”
Maybe one of those experiences could be explained away for a child, but certainly one child undergoing all of them suggests that there is something deeper at work.
In The Third Sunrise, author Natalie Jeanne Champagne writes about her own experience as a 12-year-old child with bipolar disorder in the hospital:
My psychiatrist and the medical staff are not sure why I become so agitated. I throw anything within my reach; I pull my hair; I scratch myself; and I use the plastic cutlery to fashion weapons to harm myself. I become so angry that when I am locked in the small concrete room, the “Quiet Room,” with the little nylon mattress, I tear at it until it rips, pulling out the springs with my fingers and scratching myself until I bleed, until they slide the concrete door open and take the mattress from me.
Six staff members carry me down to a different room; this one is windowless and has padded walls so I will stop smashing my head against the concrete. I bite the staff and I spit on them.
Prognosis of Childhood Bipolar Disorder
Unfortunately, people who exhibit bipolar disorder from childhood often have a more severe and more refractory form of the illness than those who manifest the disorder as adults. Even in the presence of medication and treatment compliance, relapses may occur. In the event of treatment noncompliance the course of the illness can be even more severe.
This is not to suggest, however, that people with childhood bipolar disorder cannot grow up to live full, healthy and normal lives. They can. Their road will undoubtedly be bumpy and challenging but our knowledge in this area improves every day and there is every reason to hope for successful treatment now and in the future.