Bipolar disorder often mistaken for ADHD

Bipolar disorder often mistaken for ADHD Bipolar disorder often mistaken for ADHD
dbh NeuroScience Seminars

Sara Cardine
Record Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, Sep 12, 2006

When a child’s day brings tantrums, panicked mania or dark spells, he or she could be suffering from something much deeper than an attention-deficit problem. It could be juvenile-onset bipolar disorder, a psychological condition that causes recurring attacks of depression and hyperactivity.

Experts believe that 1 million American children live with some form of bipolar disorder, according to the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation. In most, the condition is marked by abrupt mood swings, periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy, intense temper tantrums, frustration and defiant behavior.

Despite the wide-reaching effects, many sufferers do not receive the medical attention that could help them. Often, the disorder is misdiagnosed as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common behavioral problem characterized by distraction and impulsiveness.

“Schumann, Mood Swings and Madness: A piano concert and lecture”
• Who: Harvard psychiatrist and Julliard-trained pianist Richard Kogan will give a concert-lecture on the psychology of Robert Schumann, who he believes may have suffered from bipolar disorder. Kogan plans to highlight musical works that best demonstrate the composer’s periods of melancholy and mania.
• Where: Faye Spanos Concert Hall
• When: 8 p.m. Friday
• Admission: –
• Information: (925) 648-2649 or

To inform professionals and members of the community about the special needs of bipolar children, University of the Pacific is hosting a symposium Friday and Saturday. The event, “Juvenile-Onset Bipolar Disorder: Under-Diagnosed, Under-Treated, Under Discussion,” will feature presentations from educators, pharmacologists and psychiatrists.

The symposium sponsored by Pacific’s Bernerd School of Education and the Diablo Behavioral Health Neuroscience Seminars is open to the public. Registration is required and space is limited. Topics covered will include psychology and environment, pharmacology and proper treatment of the disorder.

Children taking the wrong medication are often unintentionally set up for a lifetime of failure, said Michael Elium, director of special education for University of the Pacific. He will participate in the symposium.

“Quite frequently, they’ll be diagnosed as having ADHD because it looks like that’s what they’ve got,” Elium said. “The question is, how do we serve these children?”

Other participants will include keynote speakers Demitri and Janice Papolos, authors of the book “The Bipolar Child,” and Dr. Robert Hendron, president-elect of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Janice Papolos, who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, will give a talk about 24 hours in the life of a bipolar child.

William Kehoe, a professor of pharmacology practice and psychology at Pacific, said medication is often a key part of a child’s treatment. He noted that, while there are many medications available, the scientific world is still trying to figure out the effects they might have on a child’s developing cognition.

The symposium, Kehoe added, will hopefully give community members some much-needed information.

“They’ll come away knowing this disorder, that there are more children with it than we thought and there are things we can do for them,” he said.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at (209) 546-8269 or

What: “Juvenile-Onset Bipolar Disorder: Under-Diagnosed, Under-Treated, Under Discussion”
When: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Faye Spanos Concert Hall, University of the Pacific
Admission: 5-5
Information: (925) 648-2649,

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