Often, bipolar children are prone to incredibly violent tantrums, along with threats to self, family, and property. They can be exquisitely sensitive to sounds, sights, even smells. Random words or events can trigger a manic episode that can last for hours or days. In The Bipolar Child, Demitri Papolos, M.D., and Janice Papolos offer a wealth of information, solutions and support to the parents of these children. More importantly, they offer hope.
In regards to suicidal thoughts, this advice was written by a nine-year-old girl:
“If this situation ever happens, hold them (your child) still until they calm down and stop wanting to kill themselves. Hold them still until they feel like a part of this world.”
Dramatic, emotional statements fraught with hopelessness and fear and violence are not uncommon for a child diagnosed as being bipolar - and that may be only a small part of it, for a parent. Asking for help from over one hundred parents, the co-authors have compiled a grouping of personal experiences in the hopes of comforting parents with the stories many people never share. This is an issue that often isolates parents out of fear, exhaustion or shame. Knowing that other children suffer from suicidal or murderous thoughts, exhibit hypersexuality tendencies, or scream frantically with extreme separation anxiety might help a drained, terrified mother of another bipolar child.
An extremely positive aspect of this book is the urging in chapter two to have a full medical work-up done before allowing your child to be diagnosed. There is more than a page of medical problems listed that can mimic many of the same symptoms. This kind of caution, rather than rushing to apply a label that may or may not be the right one, is smart and grounded. The authors offer responsible advice, and that makes it easier to trust the other bits they offer. Highlighted research offers other possible disorders to look into that might coincide with bipolar disorder in children, as well as the challenges associated with them all. It is all covered with a gentle but complete thoroughness.
Part one deeply explores the emotional and familial ramifications of having a child who is ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Part two deals with living and coping with it. They spend some valuable time debunking the notion of the perfect family, highlighting in stark black and white what many families have learned the hard way: family life is tough, messy, emotional work in the best of times. For a family struggling with the difficulties of raising a child who is bipolar, multiply all of that messiness to the nth degree. Now that the parents have been offered real diagnoses and explanations, they need to go about the task of learning to lovingly raise this child. The rages, the battering, the fears… solutions are offered, continually sprinkling with a heavy doses of wrenching personal stories.
While this is without a doubt a “psychology book,” it is an excellence resource for the parent or caretaker of a newly diagnosed bipolar child. It is very complete, right down to the list of resources out there for families to tap into - in person, by phone and online. For a seasoned family, The Bipolar Child would be simply an overview, but it is invaluable to the new ones.