In 2012, statistics showed that over 5 million children in the United States alone have been diagnosed with ADHD. A great many of these children are showing no response to current ADHD treatments. Studies are being conducted to determine exactly how many of these children have been incorrectly diagnosed. These problems with diagnosing ADHD do not revolve around physicians not paying attention to the symptoms, the fine line between the disorders is to blame for the increasing number of inaccurate diagnoses.

ADHD is characterized by a hyperactivity, inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and behavioral issues. However, these symptoms are the same for many other mental health disorders that plague children. Because of their ever changing tics, triggers, and energy levels, it is hard to differentiate between ADHD and emerging bipolar disorder.  In many cases, bipolar is not diagnosed until a child reaches a depressive or manic state for the first time.

How to Tell the Difference

As a parent, it is very important to know the differences between ADHD and bipolar disorder. Even though physicians are well informed in the art of practicing medicine, parents know their child better than anyone. A physician sees a child for a very short period of time, where parents spend a great deal of time with their children. Without accurate documentation from the parent, the physician can only make decisions off of information they have been told, or things they have seen and chances are that your child will not behave the same around their physician as they do their parents.

The Wavy Line between ADHD and Bipolar

Not only do bipolar and ADHD have similar symptoms, they can also overlap.  Recent studies have shown that many children who have one disorder also have the other as an underlying disorder. A child with stand alone bipolar may appear to have ADHD when they are in a manic state and a child with ADHD may appear to be manic when they are feeling especially hyper.

In cases where a pediatrician feels that the disorders may be overlapping, they may refer the child to a mental health professional to determine which disorder is causing the most difficulty in the child’s life. Once they feel that the primary disorder is under control, they will begin treatment of the second disorder.

Role of the Parent

As a parent of a child with ADHD, bipolar disorder, or undetermined mood disorder, it is important that behavior be monitored and documented carefully from day to day. The information that is documentation can help their doctor, or psychologist, determine their tics, triggers, and emotional state from day to day. It can also help their physician develop a more defined line between the symptoms the child is having and which category they better fit into. It can also allow the parent to remember various tantrums, out of control behavior, and duration of undesirable behaviors.

Allowing the physician to review the information is very helpful in ensuring that a child gets the proper diagnosis, and the right medication.

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