Bipolar disorder in children

Sunday, November 20th 2005, 6:55 pm
By: News On 6

Experts say millions of Americans are living with extremes manic highs and depressed lows. It's called bipolar disorder and its a serious mental illness that can even be deadly, if untreated. Doctors used to think it could only happen to adults, now some are saying its happening much younger.

News on 6 Reporter Ashli Sims talks to one Tulsa family coping with this illness in their ten-year-old daughter.

This is the Rosey the outside world sees. A loveable, fun-loving 10 year old, who adores her new puppy Bella. But her family sometimes sees a very different little girl.

Andrea, Mother: "hitting, kicking, biting, spitting."

Rosey has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Andrea, Mother: "its like a Doctor jekyll Mr hyde, stomping, throwing doors, kicking walls and doors, kicking the floor."

Bipolar disorder is a rare, but serious mental illness where a person experiences manic highs and depressed lows. Dr K. Michael Saliba says doctors used to think the disorder wasn't possible in children but that's starting to change.

Child psychiatrist Dr K. Michael Saliba: "I am seeing more people coming in asking is my child bipolar does he have bipolar disorder and I'm seeing more bipolar adolescents."

Andrea, Rosey's mother, says she started noticing something in her daughter as early as 18-months. At 7, Rosey was diagnosed with severe anxiety. At 8 the rages started.

Her mom says nothing and everything can trigger them and she has fits just about everyday sometimes twice a day. "The only thing that comes close to comparing is a cornered wild animal and the eyes are totally dilated and they're wild, there's no penetrating."

Andrea says people often think her daughter has a discipline problem or is just spoiled. But she says usually her kids are very well-behaved. "And if you know Rosey she's the best kid she's very loving and very caring and people love having her around."

Rosey's diagnosis of bipolar is a controversial one. Doctor Saliba says its hard to pinpoint because the illness looks differently in kids than in adults. He says an adult with bipolar might have mania for months followed by a long period of depression. Kids can cycle through those moods in days or even hours. And some psychiatrists think the illness is over-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. "I personally am very careful about putting that label on earlier because once you're diagnosed bipolar you're bipolar for life."

Andrea doesn't doubt her daughter's diagnosis. "I think the biggest problem is getting the assistance you need to deal with it."

Andrea can't find support groups for her daughter or her family. So she's determined to start one herself.To let other kids like Rosey and other families know they're not alone.

If you are interested in forming a support group for bipolar children you can email