A diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, as tricky as it is to diagnose accurately, is the first step in a long and intricate journey towards finding the best treatment for the affected child. One of the difficulties specific to pediatric bipolar disorder is trying to separate symptoms from normal, age-appropriate moods and misbehaviors.
One tool that helps track symptoms is pediatric bipolar mood charts. By keeping track of moods and symptoms, the patient or family can document symptoms in relation to stressful situations, changes in medication and discover patterns of behavior.
When your affected child suddenly needs less than a few hours of sleep but has too much energy the following day, chart it – that could be a sign of hypomania. When the child talks too fast at 2 p.m. then becomes violently angry at 3:30, chart it – that could be a way of predicting dangerous behavior. Chart behavior that leads to punishment to see if the child can truly control the behavior or whether a change in medication or other treatment is the right answer.
Chart medication, when it was taken, and later behaviors. In pediatric and adolescent bipolar disorder it is valuable to be able to document the effect of medicine on behavior, since the patient is immature and may be unable to properly understand his actions. Also, chart environmental factors. Stressful situations such as exams, dating, and field trips at school may trigger mood swings and certain behaviors. Family situations such as illness or death or even a major award for a “normal” sibling should go on the chart as well. In pediatric bipolar disorder, the patient will also have to withstand the physical and psychological onslaught of puberty. The doctor will need to know how it is affecting moods and other symptoms.
Many sample charts are available in books and online. Some must be purchased, but many others are free. Some charts are drawn up by the experts and others by the parents. Take a look at several before choosing the one that is best for your child. Choose one that is not more demanding in frequency than you can manage. Choose one that has the areas of data collection that most affect your child but not one that has many more areas than you can keep up with.
Many children with pediatric bipolar suffer from other conditions as well. Make sure that your chart has an area for food sensitivities or symptoms of related disorders if necessary. These factors may trigger mood swings. Also decide whether you need a carry-along version or prefer a computerized chart that can be printed up for every doctor visit. With some planning and work, a chart will help any family dealing with pediatric bipolar disorder as well as the doctors, teachers and therapists to understand the disorder.