Distinguishing between bipolar disorder and moodiness

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Distinguishing between bipolar disorder and moodiness

How would I distinguish whether or not my child has depression, just irritable ups and downs, or actually has a serious disorder like maniac depressive illness, bipolar disorder? Really it´s a matter of degree. What we are looking for are children who are so agitated and depressed that it interferes with their functioning. I have kids who are so aggressive that their moms and dads tell me that they are actually afraid of their children, even as young as four years of age. I worked with a child who actually challenged his teacher to such a degree that she ran out of the room because she dídn´t know how to control this child and was fearful for the safety of herself and the children in the classroom. When you have bipolar disorder, you have kids who have a grandiose sense of who they are. Some kids think they are superman and try to fly off buildings. Other kids, they feel pressured to talk or they go ahead and sleep very little. Sometimes they draw pictures with very graphic, violent depictions. If you have a question about whether your child suffers from bipolar disorder, please check my website. There is a checklist about 15 items, and if your child matches any seven of those items, I would suggest that you go ahead and get some assessment to see if your child is indeed impacted by bipolar disorder. What we know is that this is a disorder that children do not outgrow. But we can help. We can offer medication and counseling. And with appropriate intervention, these kids can lead a full and functioning life.

View Esther Hess, PhD's video on Distinguishing between bipolar disorder and moodiness...


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Esther Hess, PhD

Pediatric Psychologist

Dr. Esther Hess is a developmental psychologist. She specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with developmental delays, regulatory disorders and language impairment, specifically autism, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified.  In addition, she treats various psychological ailments including, affective disorders, selective mutism, school phobias, attention deficit disorder, non-verbal learning disorders and difficulties as related to childhood response to parental divorce. Her expertise is in the utilization and application of a developmentally based psychotherapy (the DIR model) as devised by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. This model, conceptualized as Floor Time, takes into consideration the various underlying elements that may be impeding the child including where he/she is at developmentally, various biological constraints, and the relationship between the child and the parent. 

In addition to working with the impacted person, Dr. Hess interfaces with the entire family and coordinates the efforts of the various members of team specialists who assist in boosting the impacted individual’s developmental lag.  She is currently one of Dr. Greenspan’s Senior Clinicians on the West Coast, certified in  D.I.R./Floor Time and has trained parents, interventionists and clinicians both nationally and internationally in the developmental/relational method known as Floor Time.  Dr. Hess is the executive director of a multidisciplinary treatment facility in West Los Angeles, Center for the Developing Mind.

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