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Q:  David- 

Hi, I hope you find the time to read this...I really need your advise.  I've been in counseling for almost a year now. Most of the time it's been depression or suicidal, but none of my treatments have seemed to have any effect on me at all. Lately, I thought I've been getting better, and it seems to get worse. I've had some horrible outbreaks for no reason, aggression out of no cause, little sleep, depression, and continuous mood swings, which all seem to be symptoms of bipolarism. My cousin is bipolar, and 5 females in my family use antidepressants. My therapist has advised me to talk to a psychiatrist, but I am unsure of what to do. I am 15, an all honors student, a varsity soccer player, and I have a whole life out ahead of me. I don't want to spend the rest of my life living like this, and I need to know what you think. I  would be so grateful if you would respond to this.

Dear M,

     I'm hoping my response gives you some cause for optimism.  If you are
concerned about the possibility of serious clinical depression and/or bipolar disorder, the best thing to do is to talk to your therapist and parents and locate a CHILD/ADOLESCENT psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about this to see for an evaluation.  While counseling is an important part of treatment, sometimes it is simply not sufficient alone to manage serious clinical depression and certainly NOT bipolar disorder.

     Be relentless in getting the correct diagnosis from a knowledgeable psychiatrist.  Don't be afraid to communicate openly about all of your behaviors and symptoms and select a psychiatrist, along with your therapist, who is persistent in getting as much accurate information from you as possible.  It's good to be aware of your family history for evaluation purposes but don't compare others negative experiences to those you might have.  Don't be afraid of the idea of taking medication if it is recommended to you but be an informed consumer.  Make sure you understand the reasons for taking it and its potential side effects.

     Whether or not you are diagnosed with a particular disorder, it is important for your mental health to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle as it sounds like you already do.  Make sure you get sufficient rest, regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, work at managing your own stress level, and avoid alcohol or other drugs.

     Again, talk to your therapist and the adults in your life whom you trust and proceed with seeing a child/adolescent psychiatrist knowledgeable about bipolar disorder.  Don't be afraid.  You are not alone.  I have listed several  helpful resources below:

   Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, (800) 826-3632;   

   National Mental Health Association, (800) 969-6642; 

   National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, (800) 950-6264; 

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published July, 2006


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