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Tuesday, December 30, 2008 Sill, Community Member, asks

Q: Is there a way of checking if a 4 year old boy is bipolar or not?

I'm Bp1. My son is 4 years now. He is by nature very active and is constantly speaking, singing and if not in his mood he is crying and screaming. He has days or moments when he is calm and everything is alright, but there are times when he starts to react to everything that is told to him ( if people say yes then he says no) and screams and gets very nervous. The negative behaviour is not all the time but when it comes is for real.

I'm worried. I spoke with my pdoc about this and her opinion is that it is too soon to tell.

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Answers (6)
John McManamy, Health Guide
1/12/09 4:16am

Hi, Kaninchen. Bipolar can manifest at a very early age, and is often far more severe than the adult version. And owing to the fact you have bipolar, it is wise for you to be vigilant.


But there is this complication: 4-year-old behavior is no picnic, but it may appear to be worse than it actually is from the perspective of a parent with bipolar. Our population tends to reach its breaking point very quickly and we often see things as worse than they actually are.


So you need to analyze how your own illness is affecting how you view your child's behavior.


I recall talking to Joseph Biederman, the pioneer in diagnosing and treating kids with BP. He actually says the diagnosis is fairly easy to make, as we are talking about extremely frightening behavior such as kids jumping out of moving vehicles.


Keeping this in mind, if you haven't reached this "fright point," maybe it's best to suspend judgment for now, but while remaining vigilant. The last thing you want is to be medicating your son for an illness he may not have. I'm sure you thought of this, already, and I know you have your son's best interests in mind.


Please do not interpret my cautious view as someone who doesn't believe you. I've listened to hundreds of parents with kids with bipolar. I've heard their heartbreaking stories about how others don't believe them, how others blame the kids' behavior on bad parenting and the like.


Believe me, I know kids can have bipolar, just like they can have cancer and other terrible illnesses. For support, I suggest checking out Hope this helps ...



brea1, Community Member
1/23/11 3:13pm

my son is 4 yrs old. he doesn't listen to anything i say. he tries to hurt his brother and sister and me and his dad. he is very hyper, doesn't like to watch his favorite t.v. shows anymore. he can't sit still long enough to do anything. now something isn't right. his is bipolar like his dad or he is adhd or odd i don't know but this behavior has been going on since he has been 2 and my husband and I are to the point that we want to ship him off to military school because you doctors won't diagnose him or help us until he is 5. This is crazy what do i do when he seriously hurts his brother who is 2 or his sister who is only 10 months old. am I just suppose to say that is a normal 4 yr old. No this is rediculouse and something needs to be done with him.

missy, Community Member
1/29/11 12:37am

Oh my god! I feel like you are talking about the way my son was up until recently.  He could be so mean to his sister and other family members.  I felt as though there was a demon in him like he had two personalities--Dr jeckal and Mr. Hyde. 


I will say however, that since I got a parent trainer who has introduced me to RDI and I put my son in a developmental preschool, I have seen a dramatic change in him.  I always thought he had bipolar but recently he was diagnosed with high functioning Asbergers--on the autistic spectrum.  He is very bright so, we have no problems academically but, he has poor social skills and before we placed him in this school, he didn't know how to relate to people and prefered to be by himself. He got obsessed with certain topics and needed to know the names and facts about everything.  First it was Thomas, then bugs, Sea Life, space, flowers, star wars.  Now, he is obsessed with spelling words.


We still have problems with impulse control and agression but, it is not like it was last year.  He is like night and day.  No meds!!! Just diet, parent training and a better school setting.  His teacher says that he will go into a regular kindergarten next year.

moe, Community Member
1/ 1/12 2:23pm

not sure where your from or what docs you have gone to, but my son was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's, ODD, Anxiety and OCD at the tender age of 3......and I had the public school evaluate him too and get him set up with special point is it can be done.

Megan, Community Member
12/31/08 7:54pm

I was the same way as a child, my mother tryed to get me help but the doctors just wanted to put me on medication. My boyfriend also was the same way, his mother took him to a doc and they did put him on meds. It really messed him up, now that he needs help he won't because of the experince he has had in the past, everyone is different but i would just try to read up on it and maybe see a therapist but no meds. My mom read a lot of books and did things that i didn't even know about when i was young other wise i would have gotten upset. It would be scary for a child to think there is something mentaly wrong with them. maybe if there was something theraputic that would calm him down. What i have noticed though is if a child is mentaly unstable and they know it they purposly do things just because they can get away with it. This is just my opion and point of veiw, im sure that there is others ways to help your son, and i hope you find something that will work for you!!!


1/ 1/09 9:53am

Sounds like a perfectly normal kid to me.  My 3 year old does the same things.  Sometimes when he gets moody and frustrated we get out the silly putty and take turns sculpting things for fun.  The interaction is priceless and we have MUCH fun.  Do you ever go on letter hunts?  Sometimes its a real adventure and you never know what you will run into along the way.  As far as diagnosis for children.......ive read that most head docs shy away from it.  His little body and mind are growing super fast and he is discovering himself.  Don't worry so much momma.

jojeroca, Community Member
1/24/09 9:39pm

My son is 5 years old and just recieved a dx mood dosorder, NOS.  He was dx with ADHD previously.  My 3 year old has "rages/ affective Storms" and no they are not just tantrums.  She has both tantrums and the affective storms.  Unfortunatly,  because of her age she can not be placed on an anti-psychotic or PRN medication.  Both children are very defiant and irritable/angry kiddos.  Yes,  children can have these issues at a pre-school age.  And people will dismiss your concerns and blame you. But dont let that phase you.  It does not matter what label people put on it...if you feel it is wrong and not normal then its not!  I was able to video tape one of my daughters affective storms and showed it to the psch.Doc at her med review.  Remember that affective storms/rages are not normal at any age and if it is going on 45 minutes to an hour.That is not normal. Foot in mouth

dannyd, Community Member
6/ 2/09 2:07pm

It is easy to pathologize in our society.  Children act different ways depending on how they interpret their world.  Being PB yourself makes you cautious to your sons behaviors.  However, I agree with your pediatrician, we as a society tend to jump on a diagnosis and then treat it.

I would suggest that a behavior plan may be more appropriate now, trying to curb the negative behavior and bring out the positive behavior. 

I caution you to not be led down the path of medications; they have significant side effects, and in the long run could do damage.

Take him to a child therapist if you feel he is that unmanageable.  Frankly, as a child therapist i do not see anything that is glaring at me. 

daffodil, Community Member
6/13/10 9:31pm

I think 4 is way too early for this kind of diagnosis. Because along with this diagnosis will come medicine that could have a real impact on the child's development. Perhaps you should try psyhotherapy first. I would not rush into putting this kind of label on a child. at all!

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By Sill, Community Member— Last Modified: 01/01/12, First Published: 12/30/08