Author Archives: Sheila Ellis

Art Therapy For Bipolar Kids: Expressing The Unspoken Words


Understanding people with mental illness such as bipolar disorder is never an easy way, especially when it comes to children. It is painstaking to see that at a very young age, these children must deal with the struggle of dealing with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and living on the edge, as they are stricken with depression, stress, and anxiety going through the course of bipolar disorder.

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Discipline 101: Children With Bipolar Disorder

Disciplining per se is difficult. Finding the right strategy in combination with the appropriate level of strictness but still show love and affection is a hard formula to master. Imagine how hard it can be to discipline a child with a mental disorder which has the classical symptom of the shifting moods. This is where the challenge and the test of patience come in for families with children diagnosed with bipolar disorder. According to experts, the basic and the general blueprint for disciplining is still applicable to a child with bipolar disorder since mostly, they are children. There are just some modifications when it comes to specific methods since there should be accommodation and understanding of the condition.

According to John Preston, PsyD, “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.”


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Psychiatrists Emphasize The Importance Of Sharing A Meal (Parenting A Bipolar Teenager)

Family status is complicated when you are raising a teenager diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  It has been complicated even before the diagnosis of all the irritations, separation anxiety, and tantrums.   But often when I would raise this concern to her pediatrician, he would tell me to let her be, she’s just a kid. And so that is what I did.   




“Family members need to verbally compliment one another,” said Brent Blaisdell, PsyD.


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How To Handle Grief And Loss


Grief and losses are normal occurrences in human experience, and no man is excluded from the emotions that go with it. Grief and losses are challenging, but certain situations that further intensify the response to these events such as mental health disorders, poor coping mechanisms, etc. People with mental health issues might aggravate their symptoms or even worse, a relapse of episodes. This is also applicable for children with a mental health disorder. For many of these age groups, it is challenging to handle loss because their facilities to process these experiences are still immature. On top of that, they still must handle the symptoms of the mental disorder without having access to online counselors from apps like BetterHelp.

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How To Detect If Your Child Is Being Bullied


“One of the hardest parts is when David started to go to school. Other children in school picked on him and he would tell us that they are calling him weird names.” Dana shared her challenges on having a bipolar child.

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Do Bipolar Kids Have Antisocial Personality Disorder?


Similarly different. Some say there is a thin line separating bipolar disorder from an antisocial personality disorder. From the behaviors being presented, one can objectively see that there are similarities in aggressiveness and hyperactivity of the child. Nonetheless, these mental health conditions should be thoroughly assessed and diagnosed by a mental health professional to formally say that the child has an either bipolar or antisocial personality disorder. Understanding these conditions requires thorough observation and knowledge on how the symptoms are presented especially in children and young adolescents.

According to Jessica Katzman, PsyD, “In the biological paradigm, the focus is the biochemical effect. The patient shows up for treatment, receives the medicine, and the medicine does its work.”

Children and adolescents experience mood shifts as part of their growing up. If these emotions continue to be extreme and hamper the normal function and activities, it could mean a mental health state that needs evaluation.

“Medication is crucial for managing bipolar disorder,” says John Preston, PsyD.

Bipolar and Antisocial Personality Disorder: Similarities and Differences

Bipolar disorder in children alone is somehow difficult to recognize as the symptoms are quite similar to ADHD, conduct disorder, or even the typical childhood behavior of being rowdy, energetic, or shy and moody. It is called bipolar because it presents two major emotional disturbances – mania and depression – all occurring in irregular cycles within a day. These two emotions can rapidly alternate with each other resulting in irritability with a moment of wellness between occurrences, or feeling of both manic and depressed at the same time. Thus, children with BD are described as impulsive, shifting between aggressive and withdrawn.  Parents would not consider these symptoms significant until diagnosed. As early as six years old, children can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


An antisocial personality disorder is characterized by impulsive manners, high risk for imprisonment secondary to criminal acts, addictive disorders and desperate behaviors. A person with ASPD has the likelihood of becoming a sociopath if not controlled or managed. Most cases of ASPD is detected during the adolescent period as the teenager is more inclined to perform prohibited acts or violating orders.

Two Conditions In One

A person with ASPD having manic episodes may manifest unrealistic expectations, high self-esteem, and grandiosity. The person can mask his insecurities as someone, who is dominant and is ahead of everyone. And when the circumstances are not in his favor and against his unrealistic expectations, making his high regard towards himself threatened, thus depression takes place the manic behaviors, but unlikely to remain for an extended period. Because a person with ASPD will not let himself feel down for so long, instead to regain his self, a further affirmation of his power and control will be more evident, and this is often through the commission of crimes. A person who has ASPD has no feeling of guilt after all and will not recognize the presence of the condition.

Opinion corner: Patrick Corrigan, PsyD, “As US mass shootings have increased, political leaders and others have framed the problem as one of mental illness, suggesting that better access to mental healthcare might have prevented some of the shootings.”

Final Evaluation Still Needed

So, the question of whether children with bipolar disorders have an antisocial personality disorder, the answer can only be provided after going a thorough psychiatric evaluation. Not all bipolar disorders have antisocial personality disorders. However, many cases show the interlinking of these disorders in one condition alone. One general rule is that a person cannot be diagnosed with ASPD until he or she reaches 18 years old. Until then, the teenager is provided with the diagnosis of conduct disorder wherein clinical manifestations of bipolar disorders also prevalent.


Helping Children Grieve Over The Loss Of Pets

Children with bipolar condition gain more positive experiences from their pets. If your child lost a pet, you can really see and feel their grief if this pet dies. This article will discuss helping them cope and go through the grieving process.


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Sleep Disturbance In A Teenager With Bipolar Illness

Everyone needs a good quality of night sleep to function well and avoid irritability the next day. A good sleep is even more essential in sustaining a teenager diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  It will help alleviate the symptoms and lessen the risk of having a manic episode.


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How Bipolar Disorder Takes A Grip On Family Relationships


A person with bipolar disorder has mood swings from being depressed to becoming hyperanimated.  Some persons with bipolar disorder may have mood swings that could range from mild to moderate while others instead have severe symptoms.  But whether mild or severe, a sudden change in their mood and attitude can affect the atmosphere around them, causing the people who are with them to feel a bit down, too, especially if they don’t understand what the disease is about and why the person acts the way she does.


Emotional and Social Effects

Having a younger sister with a bipolar disorder is hard.  It’s like facing an emotional challenge every day.   And because we are going to the same school, it’s hard to avoid the stare of our schoolmates.  There are those who would whisper at our backs, and there are those who would vulgarly talk about us as we passed through the hallways.  Making friends is never easy because they know her mood swings.  They don’t know anything about her situation, and they are afraid that she will just be violent anytime.  Yes, because she did it this one time when someone tried to bully her.  There are times when she will just sit alone in one corner and will not talk to anyone and then will suddenly burst into tears.  They taught she’s crazy or something, and the worst part is they thought we are the same, that anytime, I will turn into something like her.


Our circle of friends and social activities were limited because of her condition.   Can I blame her or should we blame my father’s genes for passing on this illness to her?

Family Systems Effects

When you have a sibling with bipolar disorder, not only are your parents’ time for you compromised but even money and energy.   And I keep on hearing from my mom and dad, “We’ll cut the budget because your sister still needs to attend her therapy session and have to allocate some money for additional medicines.”

Sometimes I hate it when we had planned on going on a vacation and then suddenly everything will be canceled just because she doesn’t want to go or she doesn’t feel like it.  Even going out with my friends is sometimes not allowed, and if ever I go out, it’s just limited time, especially on days when I have to watch over my sister because my parents can’t come home because of work.

Sometimes, I will ask my mom if we can bond together like go out shopping or just eat out. She’ll answer yes and then suddenly she would call up her sister to come with me.  I can’t even talk to my parents about my problems because I know that their minds are full of my sister’s condition.  But what about me? I also need them.

Why do I have to sacrifice so much just for my sister?  Is she the only daughter?  I also need my parents as much as she does.

Simon A. Rego, PsyD said “When what-if thoughts are swirling in your head, you can feel powerless and helpless. Taking productive action helps.”

Sometimes, I can’t help thinking about why life is so unfair.  Bipolar illness is so cruel to do this to our family.  Bipolar disorder takes a grip not only on my sister’s life but the wellbeing of our whole family.

There are nights when I would hear my parents arguing about her.  Sometimes, I would listen to them worrying about my sister’s future. How will her situation be when they’re no longer around to guide and assist her? I understand the stress and anxiety they are experiencing, and I am trying my best not to be an additional burden to them, and I am also planning my future because I know she will be under my care when we get older.

Every family experiences a lot of trials and problems, and there will always be conflict whether a bipolar illness is present or not.  Understanding and communication will always play a vital role in any relationship.

“Family members need to verbally compliment one another,” said Brent Blaisdell, PsyD.


Being the eldest, I feel burdened by this responsibility of becoming that glue that keeps on holding our family together.  No matter how lonely I feel inside, how hurt I am every time I feel the pain my parents are going through, I have to understand them. It is never easy to accept the fact that your daughter will need intervention throughout her lifetime to survive.   I may sometimes feel jealous of my sister who has all my parents’ attention, but I also pity her for her situation.   It may sound selfish, but sometimes I also feel thankful that I was not the one who has bipolar illness.  I may sometime hate her situation and I hate her illness, but I love my sister. Communication between us will always be open and honest because she’s the only sister I have and I am hers.  And we had a pact that we will not let her bipolar illness get in our way as sisters.

Tip from Deborah Serani, PsyD: “Buy a notebook, start a blog or email yourself “to begin documenting the textures of your thoughts and feelings.”

Family-Focused Therapy Saves Family Relationships


Having a kid with bipolar disorder is very stressful and affects not only us parents, but our family and friends as well.   It is quite tough to control the disabling effects of this disorder.  Additionally, having your bipolar child take his medications is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of bipolar kids.


Dr. Kimberly Delaney, Psyd, Pmhnp said “Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”


Bipolar patients, especially kids and teens, have a high likelihood of medication nonadherence.  In fact, a study shows that only 30% of this group of patients take their medications on a regularly scheduled basis.  Relapse occurs after abrupt discontinuation of drugs.

Reasons for discontinuation of taking their medications include medication side effects, social stigma, and belief that they are already cured and will not have another episode.

Medications Are Not Enough

According to some therapists and as studies show, medicines are not enough in addressing the symptoms of bipolar disorder.  But there are some pieces of evidence which reveal that non-medicine therapeutic interventions could enhance a patient’s outcome.   Some parents try to make the most of these interventions in order to help their children and to keep the family together as they deal with the illness.

“Mindfulness meditation practices are effective interventions, and sometimes for mild to moderate conditions—depression and anxiety—super-effective as front lines,” said Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC.


Family-Focused Therapy

There are many therapeutic interventions in treating a bipolar disorder such as

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
  • Family intervention
  • Cognitive remediation and function remediation
  • Mindfulness-based interventions

One that is proven successful for bipolar patients is family-focused therapy or FFT.  This therapy helps them to be more stable and lessen the possibility of relapse.


How It Works

In this kind of therapy, the therapist educates each family member about bipolar disorder and all related problems linked to it, like family members and caregivers getting burned out when dealing with the family member with bipolar disorder.

This method hopes to

  1. Build better communication skills that will help families minimize the stress this illness causes them, so they can work together in solving the issues related to family relationships, not on the bipolar alone.
  2. Teach them to identify the symptoms and recognize signs of any awaiting episodes and relapses.
  3. Allow them to engage more efficiently in resolving conflicts with minimal undesirable feelings.
  4. Teach them how to use problem-solving skills and management approaches mainly designed to assist members with bipolar disorder.
  5. Introduce to the families some constructive steps they can take when the patient is having difficulties with the disease.

Success Of Family Therapy In Keeping Family Together

A study from randomized controlled trials have shown that FFT is useful in helping the patients avoid relapses.    This method of therapy helps the patient and even the family members recover from bipolar episodes much faster than without the intervention, making it far more effective than other types of psychotherapy.


I can say that this family-focused therapy saved our family relationships from falling apart.   Taking extra care of kids with bipolar disorder, addressing their particular needs, and why we are giving them more attention is hard to explain to their siblings who don’t have the disease.  There are many family stressors caused by having a bipolar child. Even attending parties and gatherings have to be considered.  I don’t want to deprive my other kids the chance to socialize and be with their friends.  FFT allowed us to come up with a solution to this situation.  It had taught us techniques on how all our kids can enjoy the party and what to do when we sense that our kids with bipolar illness are about to have an episode.

I know that as my kids with bipolar mature, the problems that come with it will also add up.  The mood swings might get worse especially as they reach puberty, their attitude might change, and they may be influenced by their peers. Sadness and other symptoms might also get worse as I know that there are limitations to all these therapies and medications that they are receiving.   But with continuous treatment, I’m hopeful that we can survive the challenges brought by bipolar disorder – as a family.

“Bipolar I includes very clear manic episodes that are hard to miss, whereas bipolar II doesn’t necessarily have that,” says Sally Winston, PsyD.