Bipolar Disorder

Parent Q&A

Psychiatrist for young adult who may have bipolar illness Feb 27, 2021 (2 responses below)
Young adult son might have bi polar depression (help) Sep 26, 2017 (8 responses below)
Looking for Parenting Support--Bipolar Disorder Jun 15, 2017 (3 responses below)
  • Can anyone provide a recommendation for a knowledgeable and kind psychiatrist who could work with a young adult, early 20’s, who may have bipolar disorder.  We saw the older recommendations but are looking for current knowledge. It’s a scary journey for all of us, everything is brand new and there are so many questions. Or, any help and recommendations, even beyond the psychiatrist (books?  Support groups? Anything?). All responses welcome; we are in need of help. Thank you!

    So sorry to hear of your struggles!  For support suggest Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, and the local chapter  There have virtual support groups during COVID and a slew of resources, for family and friends as well.   NAMI, National Alliance for Mental Illness also has excellent resources, and   Our daughter was set up with a mentor through them and it was very helpful for her.  The Family Sanity support group is another resource,   You can learn so much and feel less alone when you can talk with other parents who have had similar issues with their children. Support groups can also be a great source of psychiatrist referrals.     

    one very helpful book is “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide” by David Miklowitz

    My daughter (clinical depression, ADHD, social phobia) has had two excellent psychiatrists from Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates,

    It appears from checking the link above that the group name has changed to LifeStance Health. They have offices throughout the state and my daughter was served very well by the first doctor who has since left the practice to open her own office, Dr. Amber Lerma, At PCPASF she currently sees Dr. Fuller who she’s also been quite pleased with. PCPA has good information about their physicians. Good luck. 

  • Seeking recommendation for psychiatrist and therapist that specializes in bipolar and borderline personality disorder for young adult. Thank you!

    Have you already been in touch with Clearwater Counseling in Oakland? They have programs in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is the main evidence-supported treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. They have a "young adult" program, which involves a weekly skills class, weekly individual therapy, and phone coaching. We have had experience with two of the therapists there, and both were wonderful. 

    Other DBT programs in the Bay Area (I have talked to all of them, but only have experience with Clearwater) are Wisemind Institute in Berkeley, Innovative DBT (in Marin), Mindfit (also in Marin), and I believe there are some others in the LaMorInda area. 

    Good luck! If someone close to you has borderline personality disorder that is currently untreated, you have a very tough road ahead of you. But it does get better. BPD is a treatable mental illness. Please feel free to reach out to me (including through the moderators if it's not possible with my username) if you want to talk directly.

  • My young adult (22 yr old) son is having a mental health crisis. He stopped college after 3 yrs and has been living with me (solo parent- dad not in picture ) for the past 9 months. He has gotten worse and worse with depression, OCD like behaviors, suicidal thoughts, as well as high highs.  He is not working and is basically just existing. He is totally miserable --walks through the house- saying how horrible he feels and that his brain feels like it is exploding. He feels he must have a brain tumor as he feels so out of sorts. It is incredibly painful to watch and I so badly want to help.  He readily agreed to therapy and  then to see a psychiatrist. He stopped smoking pot (self medication I am sure) per the Dr's insistence which is great.  He is trying to get exercise daily and I am feeding him nutritious food and encouraging good sleeping habits etc.

     The psychiatrist prescribed him with a medication which I researched and found is prescribed for bi polar/ depression. I am in shock as no one in the family has ever had a serious psychiatric illness such as this. I am completely freaked out and really worried about his future. Can people with this diagnosis live a healthy and meaningful life?  What exactly does this mean for him?  A year ago I was ready to kick him out and tell him he must get a job and start paying his own way in life. Now I wonder if he will ever be capable of work/ relationships/ etc.

    The psychiatrist has said he has not come to a definitive diagnosis yet so maybe I am freaking out over nothing but I am really a mess.

    Can you let me know if your young adult has had this sort of possible diagnosis and how you managed?

    Resources for me as his sole caregiver?

    Please- no judgement on my parenting or anything like that- I am already suffering enough.


    Bipolar people can certainly live meaningful lives and have successful relationships.   It is a good sign that he is open to receiving help, because people with bipolar disorder generally need treatment throughout their lives.   But it sounds like it's not yet clear he even has bipolar disorder.  Is he receiving CBT therapy?  It can be very helpful in conjunction with medication.   Try to find outlets for yourself to both escape and to express your own feelings about what's going on. Seek therapeutic support as well as recreational and/spiritual outlets that make you feel more centered.  It's not selfish to take care of yourself.  Your son will be best served by a calm, relatively unemotional home environment as he tries to recover.

    I am sorry for your situation and encourage you to keep up your good work.  I have two young adults also, one transitioning well into adulthood, the other struggling. I try and reaffirm my son that this stage in life has more questions than answers and that everyone is trying to figure life out.  There are books written for this stage in life(Quarterlife crisis). If he likes to read I encourage you to direct him to books about quarterlife crisis.  

    On the therapy response, there is a type of therapy that might be helpful for him, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I do not have a therapist to recommend but this type of therapy might be helpful for him.

    I hope this is helpful and I admire your willingness to share and reach out for help.  

    You've done everything right by taking his symptoms seriously and getting him therapy and a psychiatrist.  I suggest you check out support groups through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  This organization has local chapters that have support groups for parents.  Google NAMI to find the chapter in your county.  If you connect with other parents who are going through a similar situation with their own adult children, you will find resources and support.  Don't go through this alone.

  • Does anyone have any recommendations for a psychologist or therapist in the East Bay area, preferably East of Oakland, who specializes in Bipolar Disorder in young children?   I am looking for parenting support.  I am open to support groups as well. Thanks!  


    There is a parent's support group that meets in Lafayette.  It's a while since I attended but it it is one of the few around here so hopefully it is still going - if you go to Nami,org you should be able to find more resources.  These links provide lots of information - CABF was particularly helpful when I needed it.  Hang in there - it can be very isolating to be the parent of a child with a mood disorder. 

    As far as support groups go, my family did the 12 week Family-to-Family program offered by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).   I recommend it to any family facing mental illness.

    I think the only chapter in the Bay Area is in Pleasanton.

    Bay Area children's association


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Bipolar Children Bipolar Teens & Young Adults Bipolar Adults

Bipolar Children

Therapist for sibling of bipolar child

Sept 2013

We're looking for a very kind and compassionate therapist for our older daughter, 11, who is dealing with a younger sibling diagnosed with a mood disorder, most probably bipolar. Beth

As an adult who grew up with a bipolar sibling, I got choked up by your request. I'm in my 50s and I still have deep feelings about being left to my own devices with my sibling's behavior. Thank you, thank you, for being the tuned-in parents you are. Scarred

Hello. I would like to highly recommend Dr. Deborah Ronay, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who has extensive knowledge of early childhood development and experience with working with young children and families. Dr. Ronay is also bilingual in Spanish and has her private practice located in Alameda. Here's her office number, (510)473-7479. Elizabeth

I can highly recommend either Laura Soble (510-527-1501) or Stacy Ouetten (510- 594-4311). They are both extremely skilled and deeply empathic therapists. Ann

Stanford or UCSF to help with bipolar child?

Sept 2011

Does anyone have experience with either UCSF or Stanford with treatment of a young child exhibiting bipolar symptoms? Have heard great things about Kiki Chang at Stanford but was wondering if the department and experience overall is worth the drive to Palo Alto. Thanks! anon

I am replying to a post about a young child exhibiting bipolar symptoms-UCSF or Stanford. My experience with my child who was diagnosed at the age of five and has been to Stanford, UCSF, Children's Oakland (CHO) and other places for diagnostic purposes is: I would recommend that you see Andrew Giammona, MD at CHO. Currently he is the department head so it may take some time to get in, but he is smart, thorough, patient, persistent, and caring. When he takes on your case you and your child are his concern. You have not entered into a ''clinic'' setting like Stanford or UCSF. We went to those places for second and third opinions with Dr. G's blessings after several years of very difficult times with medications not working and he welcomed the opinions of other minds. He does not allow ego to get in the way of the care of his patients. He is a remarkable Dr. My son is still seeing him ten years later! I can't say enough about him! Blessings to you and your family on this journey! J.

Bipolar or Social Anxiety Disorder in 3-Year-Old

Dec 2010

I'm very worried about my 3-year-old son's extreme reactions in public. On a lesser note, I'm often embarrassed and frustrated by him and feel confused whether I should avoid most social situations with him for now. His specific behaviors include tantruming, aversion to people talking to, touching or approaching him. Tonight we went to a birthday party at a kids gym. I was hyper-vigilant with him and did my best to remove him as soon as he began to tantrum (when someone picked him up from a chair he was sitting in and I couldn't get to him in time). I'm probably going to get suggestions to check for autism or sensory processing disorder, but I should say that I have a 5-year-old girl who had this same social aversion and tendency to tantrum. She has pretty much outgrown this behavior, but not before I had her evaluated by the Regional Center and by a few occupational therapists who finally concluded that nothing was disordered in her.

Like most parents with children with undiagnosed disorders or whatever this is, I am so worried. I'm even worried that nothing may be wrong with my boy and I'm worrying for nothing (again)! I have talked to my child's experienced preschool teacher, but she isn't worried. He has tantrums and angry outbursts with her. Like me, she stands firm with her discipline, and often gets good results from him as I do at home. Public outings are problematic. I'd probably avoid them more if I wasn't trying to meet my daughter's needs, too. My son chews at his fingernails now. He screams when we give him notice that we are going out. We do our very best to allow him to approach the new situation when he is ready. If only I could put a sign on him that says, ''Slow to warm. Please don't approach. I will approach you.'' Sigh.

My last fear is a big one. My husband's father is bipolar, and his sister was recently diagnosed bipolar. I wish I could stop there. On my side of the family, both my half brothers (not related to each other by blood), have been diagnosed bipolar. I only knew about one half-brother and the grandfather before we decided to have children. I'm getting a bit terrified by the odds now. Is it even possible for a preschooler to be bipolar? Is it a mistake to diagnose at this age? I am prepared to go to my boy's pediatrician (She's new to us and with Kaiser), but I'd like to know of anyone who has experienced something like this behavior in a very young child. I'm frankly reluctant to tell her our family history and have Kaiser misdiagnose my son or suggest medication. Beyond Worried

Hi, I can't speak to the question about bipolar disorder. However, my son has had anxiety issues starting around age 3. Some of the things you mentioned, such as being touched by strangers, would cause him to completely freak. I remember feeling that same thing you mentioned: if only I could put a sign on him that says ''please don't touch.''

We went to a psychiatrist for 2 years to help us all learn coping techniques for anxiety. One of the many helpful things the doctor taught us is that the child has a right to decide who can touch him, and has a right to not be touched if he doesn't want to be touched. This seems pretty obvious when I say it, but as you know, adults regularly assume that it's OK to touch strange children.

I have a few suggestions:

1.. rethink the term ''tantrum'' and replace it in your mind with ''panic attack'' or ''freakout'' or something that feels less like a power struggle. I wouldn't think of it as a discipline issue.

2.. consistently push against your child's anxieties, but only to the extent that he can handle - otherwise it won't be therapeutic. For example, if he doesn't want to go to a party, convince him to at least walk up the front steps. If that is too hard, have him touch the front gate and count to 10. Repeat it until it's easy, and then try to take it one step further. We spent literally hundreds of days outside of friends' houses or outside of parties or events that my son was too anxious to enter, taking one or or two steps. Gradually over about 2-3 years he was able to do most things ''normally'' again.

3.. defend your son's right to choose who touches him, who kisses him etc.. I started telling strangers that he's ill and can't be touched, and I even tried saying that he was immunocompromised. Eventually I was more honest and said bluntly ''he doesn't like to be touched.''

4.. Anxiety can masquerade as other things. If he's acting angry or evasive, hostile, etc., it might be because he's putting up barriers, trying to avoid something he's anxious about. For example, my son would get super uptight about what clothes to wear, but really he was stalling because he was anxious about going to school. So keep your eyes open because it's easy to miss this - and understanding it makes it much less maddening.

A good doctor can help a lot. things are much better for my son now. good luck to you, mom of worrier

Your concerns about your son are well placed and certainly understandable. If members on both sides of the family have been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, then the risks of his (or your daughter as well) having this is certainly higher than it would be for a child without this family history. It is not a certainty, however. Some mental health professionals are all too eager to use a diagnosis like this one as 'an answer' to the challenges a child this age presents because it makes things easier and more readily solved. Eg, with medication. BUT in my 30 years of experience as a psychologist a child should not be diagnosed with this, or any other disorder except for Autism/Asperger's, at this age. It would be a good idea, though, for you to get some help to figure out how, and how much, you can help your son get through these anxieties he has in the next few years. He might turn out 'fine' as you daughter has. Or he might need ongoing help thru his childhood. But getting him evaluated and some help NOW while he is still younger and more amenable to change is the best route to go. Richard

Please, please, don't panic. What you describe sounds entirely and completely normal and common to me. Both my children had every single behavior you describe, and no one ever suggested to me that it was anything to worry about in terms of their mental health (now, what it did to mine... just kidding). Three is such a hard age. Both of my kids seemed to just flip out and switch personalities. It was hard, hard, hard and often embarrassing. They sometimes freaked out if they were just looked at. I used to say the same thing about putting a sign on them telling people not to try to talk to them. They had huge tantrums-- one of them very, very frequently and over nothing. Their mood flipped from happy to outrage in a split second over nothing. One started to outgrow it in 6 months and the other took a longer, slower path, but is now 5 and doing great. I can understand that your family history has you more worried than you would otherwise be, but please reassure yourself that what you describe is nothing more than normal (awful!) 3-year-old behavior and mood swings. It is so difficult, but with patience and understanding, you'll be fine. If your son's teacher isn't worried, I truly believe you have nothing to worry about. -''Terrible Twos'' got nothing on the ''Terrorizing Threes''

Your son sounds perfectly normal to me. All kids are different, my son had temper-tantrums at that age, whereas my others didn't. I would not label him as bipolar or having a social anxiety, I would label him as a ''normal 3 year old'' mom of 3 boys

Your son is fine. And he's three. And before you take him to his pediatrician, or a psych doc, please read this And proceed with caution. Anon

I can't speak to an inherited mental health history [my son is adopted, and we aren't completely certain of his], but I sure can commiserate about how incredibly hard it is to have a child with such severe social anxiety. Our 9 year old has exhibited behavior similar to what you described since he was about 3 also, with age 4 - 6 being the toughest [steel yourself]. He still has his issues, and times can still be tough, but the tantrums are fewer and shorter, and we've gotten better at understanding his needs. He still has a hard time handling crowds, newness, or changes in routine, but since we're all better at pre-empting the problem situations, things are less likely to erupt into the surprise tantrum. Less a tantrum these days than a blast of an emotional response. I feel really sorry for him, because he recognizes that he has a harder time than most people, but it's getting better as he matures. By the way, his ultra-sensitivity has some perks. He feels things, including love, very intensely. -mom

We were very concerned about our son and his behavior from a very early age. We sought many opinions from professionals but always did a lot of reading and thinking for ourselves and were reluctant to use medication unless it really seemed the wisest thing to do. We discovered that our horribly acting child was experiencing headaches, but not able to tell us so. They were a migrane like headache with a feeling of malaise, but not head pounding at all so he did not ever say his head hurt. Also, he felt sick when he ate any soy products, like soy sauce, soy oil or tofu or soy milk. We never did use medication in our case but noticed that omega 3 fish oil (high quality-Ultimate omega from Nordic Naturals) helped a lot with his focus on school work. So my suggestion is to try to rule out any food sensitivites and other factors like headaches before making a mental health diagnoses. Best of luck to you anon

Bipolar child needs more help

May 2010

After reviewing posts from 2003 and 2004, I decided to post my plea for help: my daughter is 7, and has been diagnosed by 2 different Kaiser psychiatrists as having a mood disorder. They are reluctant to actually label it Bipolar, but in confidence, both docs have said that that is what it is. My daughter is on Risperdal for the aggression (seems to be working nicely), and after trial and error of several different mood stabilizers, is currently beginning a trial of low-dose Lamictal (no idea so far, just 2 days in). Of course, her mood swings are problematic, but now her oppositional behavior is also becoming problematic, both at home and at school (elementary school in the West Contra Costa School District). I am having trouble with the I.E.P. and possibly requesting an aide; we've gone through the first steps, including requesting formal evaluation from the school's psychologist (in class) to better understand what her needs are, but nothing has been done! It's been almost 3 months since the intial meeting! Also, I am furious with Kaiser because although I keep requesting bimonthly one-on-one talk-therapy sessions with a female provider for my daughter, all they are willing to commit to is the group therapy, which is not helpful at all! (The meds doctor is fantastic, however; she's been a real saving grace through all of this. And, for a while, my daughter had a fantastic therapist, but since she's gone on maternity leave, all hell's broken loose!) Also, encouragement by the psych and MD's for behavior modification is lovely and all, but what am I to do about the actual moment where she's screaming and aggressive, and she really doesn't care that about consequences? She refuses to do her homework, refuses to do just about anything, freaks out at the word ''No'', and then add the irrational fears and mood swings that happen at the drop of a hat, and it's just horrid! (She's an intelligent, loving, sweet, sensitive, caring, humorous little girl with real problems; I love her, and desperately want to get her more help!) I am trying to be patient with the school, and with Kaiser, but am feeling like there has to be more: more help for her, and more support for ME and my husband as parents of a bipolar child! The online support group I am a part of is great, but I need real live people, too! Also, I have tried 3 different times, a few weeks apart--leaving detailed messages about the issue and clearly stating my name, phone number, and being a self- pay person--to Children's Hospital Psychiatry (reputably a fantastic resource in the Bay Area), with absolutely no response back. Reprehensible! I understand they are busy, even backlogged, but really--all I can say is thank goodness my child isn't suicidal! The bottom line is that I am appalled by the lack of help for my child and for myself. As a parent who is trying to be proactive with these issues, especially for the school's sake, I am extremely frustrated by the whole situation! I have a 3rd Student Success Team meeting (2nd for the I.E.P.?) with the school next Tuesday, and nothing I requested has been done! The teacher is a saving grace: she has been patient, and instrumental in implementing a small star chart to try the behavior modification route, but that patience (understandably!) seems to have been exhausted! Even after contacting the Special Ed department as a last resort, AND faxing a written letter to the Special Ed department, the district Psych dept, and the elementary school itself, I still haven't gotten anywhere! I would appreciate any and almost all advice here: recommendations for docs for therapy, within or outside of Kaiser, as well as support groups for parents of young children with mood disorders. (I can appreciate well-meaning people who suggest another opinion, but as I have already had 2, and have lived with my daughter's problems since she was a toddler, I am confident of the diagnosis, and the necessity for medication as well as therapy.) I apologize if it seems like I'm ranting, but well, I am. I am angry and frustrated, with good reason! I feel like I'm spinning my wheels with Kaiser, and trying to find help via the web is throwing up nothing! I am imploring the Berkeley Parent's Network for help, please!

I'm so sorry you are having such a struggle. I can imagine it's overwhelming and upsetting. My son may be on the high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum. I was surprised, with how much awareness-raising there is around autism, that when you approach doctors and try to get help, no one knows what steps you should take, and the doctors who provide diagnoses on the health insurance plans have a 1 year wait. You need help and everything seems to move in slow motion.

Two suggestions -

Call Eileen who is the director of the Family Resource Network in Oakland. 510-547-7322 If what you are dealing with isn't covered under their services, they would definitely help connect you with the right resources. Make and appointment, go in and sit down and talk with her. I got so many great insights from her about how to navigate the system and get the right help for my son; also how to navigate the school system and IEPs. They can attend meetings and advocate -- and help you become and advocate for your daughter.

This is their mission statement: ''The purpose of the Family Resource Network is to support and encourage the positive development of families of children with a disability or special health care need. FRN provides family-friendly information and training to help families access specialized education and health care for their children. FRN also offers parent to parent support from another parent who has 'been there'.''

Second suggestion - get an advocate to work with you on the school and IEP issues. By law, you can have this person attend meetings with you and advocate on your daughter's behalf. Sounds like the people you're trying to work with need a push. Go onto and do a search about advocates. There are a lot of great articles.

I hope you find your answers, and some help. Asking for help is the right thing to do. K

This sounds incredibly frustrating, and you are doing the right thing by seeking additional support and treatment. Children's Hospital is a great resource but like many clinics overwhelmed by the demand versus supply. Two other east bay clinics you could try are the Ann Martin Center in Piedmont, and WestCoast Children's Clinic in El Cerrito and Oakland. An excellent child therapist in private practice is Kate White, MFT. She's in the Piedmont area. (408)396-5237. Perhaps with greater stability and one-on- one treatment, maybe a little more maturity, the group sessions will be of more use to her. The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation website is an excellent resource for information, support and advocacy. Best of luck to you and your family. Ilene

I am so sorry for all you and your family are going through and so glad that your daughter has such a great advocate in you. I am wondering if you have ever talked to anyone at DREDF. (Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund). They help individual families get the right IEPs and services for their children and they MAY also help with access to mental health services, though I haven't checked that in a while. Another resource is California's Protection and Advocacy system, which is now called Disability Rights California. They do similar work. I wish you the best! Another mom

I don't know where you're located but we've been working with a private trainer since our son was 11 yo. and sounded alot like you described your son (now he's 13 yo, Aspergers). I can't say enough wonderful things about his trainer- Luis. He's a young guy so our son can relate very well to him. he has been patient, kind and our son's fitness level and self-esteem have improved dramatically. He's also been a wonderful mentor to our son. Check out or call 650-454-7979. He comes to our home and it's pricey but totally worth every penny! Hope that helps. BTDT

I missed your original post, but have a good idea of what it said. I have a 10-year old bipolar child and have been dealing with all of the ramifications thereof for years. Here's my advice (sorry if you're already doing this, or know this): the first priority is to get the child as medically stable as possible. This is an organic, biological disease that results in undesirable behaviors. The behaviors stem from the disease, and will subside, or at least be treatable, once the underlying medical condition is addressed.

We have had great success with EMPower Plus (, after trialing many, many meds with the ''top'' child psychiatrists. Traditional meds work for some, but not for my child and caused horrible side effects. EMPower Plus is quite expensive, and most likely is not covered by med. insurance. The good news is that you can work directly with the co. for free and not have to pay a psychiatrist.

If you prefer to go with a traditional psychiatrist, find one who works regularly with bpkids. Drs. Paul Abrinko, Herb Schreier at CHO and Melinda Young have all been recommended to me. (Dr. Abrinko is WONDERFUL, and works with EMP, but may not be taking new patients.) I'm taking my child to see Dr. Scott Shannon in Colorado, who also works with EMP, and other micronutrient therapies for bp, anxiety, depression, etc.

If hospitalization becomes necessary, we had good experiences with John Muir (formerly Mt. Diablo Pavilion) in Concord under Dr. Kiran Koka's care. Dr. Koka was very flexible and supportive and willing to work with EMP, rather than meds -- very unusual. The staff (at least in the children's wing) was extremely caring and supportive, and the facilities were pleasant. My child benefitted from the hospitalizations and it really was nothing to be ashamed of or to shy away from (far from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!)

Re psychotherapy, make sure you're working with a therapist who, again, has extensive experience with bp kids and the related family issues. Hard to find. Don't bother with any therapist who hasn't successfully worked with bp kids and families before. Dr. Ellen Singer in Berkeley is experienced. She may have other referrals. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy(DBT)/Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the research-based psychotherapy of choice for teens with bp. The only DBT therapy in the area I know of is at Clearwater Clinic ( There's a waiting list. Also, read The Explosive Child by Ross Greene for tips on power struggles, tantrums. If you haven't read The Bipolar Child by Dr. Demitri Papolos, it's a Bible.

Re school/IEP issues, contact Donna Gilcher, Ed.D. at She's AMAZING -- used to be the educational director at Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABP, The absolute best and works remotely all around the country from her office in Cleveland. She has changed the trajectory of my child's academic life from failure to success and really understands all the learning and school issues that affect bp kids.

Re respite care, contact NAMI, Easter Seals, Family Resource Center.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, hook up with other parents of bp kids for support and education. We truly are the most knowledgeable and informative source of info because we live this 24/7! CABF ( and (Donna Gilcher's site) are excellent. There's a local parent support group for bp kids/teens that meets once per month in Lafayette, contact, 3kids1dog [at]

Finally, don't despair. It's a formmidable disease, but there's hope and support out there. We can definitely relate to your and your child's distress. I wrote a post a few years ago begging for help. Help is out there, you just have to be relentless about finding it! Good luck! Can Relate

9 year old may be bipolar

May 2008

Our son has completed a lengthy neurological assessment from someone I have been very happy with. Results are pointing to therapy in Reactive Attachment Disorder, and further exploration with a psychiatrist of a BiPolar disorder. Familiar w/RAD, but am wondering what the experience on the board here is w/Bipolar? After 13 difficult hours of exams, reluctant to put him through more testing w/yet another person. Spend more money ($5300 for neuro-psych). Also, don't want to label him just because we can, or do drugs unless absolutely necessary.

1.) How do I navigate all the information, and conduct my own concise research that leaves me equipped to advocate for him in an intelligent way? 2.) Any non-drug therapy treatments?

Divorced dad, and I don't agree, and dad does no research but simply let's other's words be the deciding factor with little critical thinking or exploration. Feeling like Bipolar is the new ADHD, and feeling skeptical about jumping on the diagnosis/drug bandwagon. It's a critical time and don't want this next phase of our son's life to be forever characterized by an inaccurate reading. anon

Join a support group at Herrick Hospital on saturdays. A variety of people; variety of stages of experience. You may meet a comrade with a young child, facing the dilemma. Also NAMI meets monthly in the area. Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services has many locations for services. trying to help

Wow. You have a lot going on and I'm sure you're feeling completely overwhelmed. I am offering you my opinion as a mental health professional (MFT, RDT, CCFC). Please understand that it is only an opinion.

First I think it is important to know that diagnosing mental illness is not a concrete science. It is quite possible to get different diagnoses from every professional you see.

Secondly, there is definitely a growing trend to diagnose bipolar in children right now. It used to be very rare to see this diagnosis in children. I have a friend and colleague who is a psychiatrist working with adolescents and she has told me that she would not diagnose bipolar in children unless there is clearly a genetic component (meaning there is a family history of mental health issues) because it is such a ''big'' diagnosis - it means pretty heavy duty meds for a lifetime.

Start with intensive therapy. Participate in the treatment yourself. Learn what communication styles and discipline styles are most effective for RAD. A good therapist should be able to help you with this.

I think having him evaluated by a psychiatrist is good. It is possible that stabilizing him on some medication will help him make better use of therapy right now. But a diagnosis is one professionals opinion. Feel free to get a second opinion.

Don't forget to take care of yourself in the process. Your son needs you to be at your best, so don't put your needs last. Good luck. Carrie

While I applaud your desire not to simply go along with what might seem like a fad diagnosis without confidence in it, there is a very legitimate school of thought that the genetic potential in people to develop bipolar disorder is being activated at younger and younger ages as children are subjected to constant electronic stimulation. The brain of a person with latent or active BP disorder does not have the normal capacity to return to center after being knocked off-center by stress or overstimulation, it can get stuck there and lead to depression or mania.

As someone whose bipolar disorder II began to manifest in my early 20s, which is classically the most common time of life for that to happen, this postulation makes perfect sense to me- it just feels right on.

I am old enough that when I was a kid life was much slower and relaxing for children- we weren't subjected to all the kinds of demands and stimulation that children are now. I myself am very sensitive to things like extended bright light, and pounding loud noise like heavy metal rock music. When I was in college, the strobe lights that were popular made me feel crazy.

At the suggestion of a psychiatrist, when I find myself feeling like I might be headed toward hypomania, if I live with the natural patterns of light and dark for awhile (no electric lights, just candle or oil lantern light after dark), it calms me down and I can bring myself back to center. While that may sound extreme and difficult to pull off, it's a very relaxing and charming experience to live that way, and you'd be surprised how much you can do by just candle and lantern light!

That doctor believed in the school of thought that BP disorder began to manifest in vulnerable people more frequently after the advent of electric light because of the increased brain stimulation. Given that my own great-grandfather manifested it at the time in history, I find that quite believable.

This theory is explored in this article along with a study conducted on the subject: which is a link of of this resource site on BP:

Since it ultimately saved me, I believe in medication when it is in the hands of a skilled psychiatrist who really knows how to diagnose the disorder and when it is necessary to bring about remission. I encourage you, having already gone this far, to continue on to the psychiatric evaluation. Langley-Porter Institute at UCSF Medical School is a good place to get a thorough evaluation in an up-to-date setting at a reasonable cost. Stanford Medical School also has an excellent Mood Disorders Clinic.

In the meantime, you might want to experiment with reducing the amount of stress and electronic stimulation in your child's life to the degree that you are able, whether or not your doctors are into this approach. You might want to try out the ''Dark Therapy''- it can't hurt, and it's natural. High daily doses of Omega-3 fish oils have also been proven to improve stability in BP disorder, another non-drug therapy.

While it may be obvious, I'll mention that the stress of a divorce can be extreme enough for a child to set off a latent psychiatric disorder, and it sounds like there is continuing stress as you and your husband disagree over where to go from here.

Best of luck to you and your son. Anon

I do not know about RAD but I have several friends/relatives with bipolar or cyclothemia, the gentler version of bipolar. I would highly recommend ''The Bipolar Child: The Definitive and Reassuring Guide to Childhood's Most Misunderstood Disorder'' by Demitri and Janice Papolos. It's a pretty serious book, but it sounds like you are ready to do some studying, which is good! It is good to diagnose bipolar sooner than later if possible. There are some things that can help if this is what he has.

Just as an aside - it seems like the list of behaviors associated with bipolar in children can also be a list of behaviors from sexual abuse. You might want to check out ''Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love'' by Marilyn Van M. Derbur (the end of the book in particular) to know what kind of questions to ask your son to make sure that isn't or wasn't a problem.

From your post, it seems like your child is in good hands with you. Keep fighting for him and good luck. Laura

I think my 6-year-old is bipolar - what should I do?

June 2004

I just glanced at a book about bipolar children and was shocked to find how well this described my 6 year old daughter. Things are getting worse with her angry rages becoming more frequent, interspersed with her being the most loveg, affectionate, outgoing child I know. My question is, what do I do now? I have no idea. Do I get her evaluated? Should I be asking for Recommendations instead of Advice? I don't have health insurance, but I can get some if she is going to need some kind of therapy. What I don't want is for her to be labeled bipolar if she isn't. What would happen next? Am I supposed to tell her school? She seems to be mostly okay at school. Help! Shocked and Confused

Hi, It's great that you're aware of the possibility of bipolar, but before you get overly concerned, I do want to state that all 6 years olds have rages and are alternatively loving and angry. The fact that your child does not display these behaviors outside the home is a very, very important and good sign. I think seeking consultation is a good first step, and won't be too damaging to your budget, and you can do so first without your child. It will be important for a therapist to know what you've already tried, and to suggest new strategies. How your child has responded and will respond to these approaches will be important information. If you find that after consultation and a period of time to evaluate what's going on with the assistance of a professional, that everything is the same and still worrisome, then an assessment may be in order. I encourage you to use some time to gather inform! ation about when the rages occur, and to look for any patterns. If you did not have concerns about bipolar before, and they originated from the book, I think that is also a good sign. If you do not have longterm concerns, I would encourage you to take things one step at a time. In general, 6 year olds these days have demanding and complex lives and it is not unusual for this to show up at home. As a parent of two former 6 year olds, there were moments when I thought they were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Again, I don't want to minimize your concerns, but rather, I'd like to encourage you to rule out the developmental approach first (before you panic) before the pathological one. Good luck! Nancy

I've just been through the whole thing--diagnosis, therapy, other treatment--and have found wonderful success for my 5-year-old daughter with nutrition therapy through a clinic outside Chicago. If you contact me at this e-mail address I'd be happy to share my experience. Robin

Before you take your daughter to get evaluated, ask your ped if it couldn't be simply normal six-year-old behavior. I've talked to several experts on this topic (in the course of my work) who told me that six-year-olds often start acting out in ways you haven't seen since the toddler years. They stomp out of rooms, scream at you, slam doors, etc. I'm told it's because they're newly in school and have become keenly aware of where they are in the pecking! order of things. They're not ''big kids'' yet but they're not ''little kids,'' either. They see that there are new social rules of being in kindergarten or first grade, but they're pretty unsavvy when they try to pull them off. They feel strongly about everything, and you, the parent, feel the brunt of their righteous indignation. It passes, the experts promise. In the meantime, you're just supposed to tow the line and keep the already set-limits in place. Just a thought to consider before you open that ''diagnosis'' door. Good luck, Julie T.

I think the behavior you describe seeing in your daughter is common and may not necessarily mean that she is bipolar. I would recommend two things. 1. Consider that children's behavior is almost always a symptom of something else that is occurring in their lives. I wholeheartedly recommend you read Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mati M.D (only available in Canada now at or visit The authors point out that children's behavior is directly rooted in their attachments to their parents and that when the attachment falters or is threatened their behavior can change. The authors also directly discuss anger and aggression (a result of frustration w/ relationships that aren't ''working'') Addressing the attachment w/ your child is more important than addressing the behavior itself...the behavior will fall into line once the attachment is re-solidified. The book offers a good dose of development psychology as well as techniques for establishing and maintaining strong att! achments w/ your children throughout their growing years. Also included are discipline principles that are accomplished via the attachment dynamic. The book is not wishy-washy. I wish I could offer a better synopsis that would encourage you to give it a read as I would recommend it to any and every parent. I don't know you or your daughter, of course, so what I've said above should be taken w/ a grain of salt, I suppose. I have been reading the book and have found it to have a very positive impact on my relationship w/ my own ds. 2. See a pediatrician you trust and seek a second opinion if the doctor recommends meds. Be loving w/ yourself and your daughter. Best of luck. Nita

I could have written this post last year! I asked my daughter's pediatrician who suggested temperment counseling before the leap to therapy. After filling out a mail-in survey, we got an appointment with Kaiser's temperment specialist, Nurse Rona Renner. Rona gave us lots of things to try as preventative measures and they really worked. If you are a member of Kaiser this is a free service. If not, maybe you can investigate other temperment counselors. Anon

My suggestion is to call Langley Porter Institute (the psychiatric section) at UCSF and ask if they evaluate children. They have an Affective Disorders Clinic where they offer sliding scale evaluations for adults that are much more extensive and complete than you can get fr! om a private psychiatrist without paying thousands of dollars. If the don't evaluate children, I'm sure that they can give you leads for other lower cost options. Their orientation is to the psychological/therapeutic as well as the psychiatric/medical. As a bipolar adult, I know that early evaluation and treatment is more effective and successful than waiting until adulthood. anon

I advise you do get your child evaluated, but don't let her be labeled as bipolar without thorough evaluation. Our older ADHD son is subject to rages, and also sweet at other times, but the 'fit' with bipolar is superficial (bipolar rages are charaterictically very long, destructive, frequent, showing amazing strength that would exhaust an adult). From the website: ''However, the illness looks different in children than it does in adults. Children usually have an ongoing, continuous mood disturbance that is a mix of mania and depression. This rapid and severe cycling between moods produces chronic irritability and few clear periods of wellness between episodes.'' I would look into ADD/ADHD, perhaps combined with sensitivity to something in her environment (school may be stressing her out, and she takes it out on you; there may be a hidden dietary allergy/sensitivity). This CAN cause explosive acting out. It's hard to manage too, but by identifying issues that cause problems, it can be managed. Best of luck to you!

Please don't get caught up with the label. I had to deal with this about three years ago when a doctor had to give my son an autism/mental retardation label just so he could get services from the school district. If I were you, I would be okay with her getting a label of bipolar if it meant she would get treatment from the school district. The school district, if they assess she is bipolar, will give you the therapy you need at the school site to help her function. But your concern should be that she is being treated, not with what they call it. Hope this helps. Anonymous

My own daughter was full of apparent rage and then could be totally spent from some kind of violent ''tantrum'' ... this from birth, practically. She did not have any discernable problems at school, other than being shy. We *finally* had her evaluated when she was eight because I had read enough about Obesessive-Compulsive Disorder to suspect that she would be diagnosed with it. She has OCD, and it accounts for much of the behavior that also looks bipolar, when you read that literature. If your child is a ''control freak,'' some of the rage is because she can't control what she needs to control, if there's something going on underneath, like bipolar disorder, OCD, or whatever. Here's what I have experienced: if you go to some kinds of counseling/therapy, you may be pressured for contact with the child's teachers. If you prefer not to have her ''labeled,'' do not give permission. I was adamant that a counselor did not have to talk with my daughter's teachers, and I know that this counselor felt I was hiding something (the only thing I was doing was protecting my child from being labelled!). Some types of therapists seem to automatically assume problems at home, and will want to treat those problems, real or imagined, even if you suspect a chemical imbalance or disorder that is NOT caused by ''family problems.'' Shop around: not all therapists are a good match for your child and/or for you. Since you don't have insurance, you don't need to worry about this, but in case you acquire insurance, you might want to check: would the process of getting a referral to a child psychologist (for the purposes of an initial evaluation) trigger any ''red flags'' within the insurance? In ! my opinion, a medical evaluation will give you peace of mind and is worth the out-of-pocket expense. You will know, if the evaluation is medical, what the diagnosis is, what the treatment options are, and what kinds of therapy, if any, will be worthwhile. Finally ...... join a support group for yourself, because dealing with a child who does not fit the anticipated mold can be exhausting, demoralizing, and isolating. If you can get validation that others have the same experience, you will not only benefit from what they share about treatments, etc., you will also have much-needed empathy. Best of luck to you

I worked as a special educator for 10 years in public school systems in CA and MA. My advice to you is to pursue an evaluation through your child's pediatrician. The pediatrician probably can not diagnose whether your child is bipolar or not and you will likely be referred to a specialist. If your pediatrician dismisses your concerns, I would insist on some referrals to specialists... you can't self-diagnose and the sooner your child is diagnosed (or not) the sooner you'll know what action to take. It sounds like even if she isn't bipolar, she has some behavioral issues that need to be dealt with. It may take several weeks/months to get in to see a specialist. I would recommend that you try to see someone who has experience diagnosing/ treating children rather than adults. I would also recommend that you get medical insurance ASAP, as you don't know what course you will be taking once you start down this path, but if she is bipolar she will likely need treatment, which may include therapy and medication. You do not have to let the school know what's going on if/until you have a diagnosi! s... but once you do, you would likely want to meet with your child's teacher and then likely the special education team. They should be willing to help implement the needed behavioral plan/intervention as recommended by the outside evaluator (specialist). The school may offer some kind of on-site counseling which may help your daughter cope at school, depending on her needs. The in-school stuff can be handled with a 504 plan unless she is found to also have learning disabilities in which case they'll do some of their own evaluating and write up an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) and she'll get direct special education services... but all this IEP stuff only if her problems are affecting her ability to learn. I'm sure all this seems overwhelming. Begin by pursuing an evaluation. In addition to calling your pediatrician, you might call the Ann Martin Center in O! akland... if they can't do the evaluation, they can likely point you in the right direction. Best of luck. a special educator

Need help and support for child's bipolar diagnosis

Feb 2004

Is anyone out there dealing with a young child (6-11 yr range) who has been diagnosed as being bipolar? I need help. Any recommendations you could provide regarding treatment, Doctors, therapies that worked, special parenting classes, medication, etc. would be greatly appreciated. I would really like to find a support group (face-to-face) in Oakland, Berkeley (or even SF). I am feeling overwhelmed with concern for my child's well being. Thank you very much. Help!

I don't have experience with Bipolar Disorder, but just want to suggest that you get another opinion. My child has a social anxiety disorder that is VERY often misdiagnosed. Fortunately I've done a lot of my own researach on his stuff so I know for sure (and knew for sure) before anyone else made any diagnosis. So often symptoms can overlap and diagnosis can be incorrect. Good luck to you. anon

There is a support group for parents of children with mental illness run by NAMI at a church on the corner of Marin and (Stannage?) in Albany on the third Tuesday of the month from 7-9 PM. It's truly a wonderful group. Call East Bay NAMI for the exact location. Another parent

There's a book called ''If your! Child is Bipolar,'' by Cindy Singer and Sheryl Gurrentz, published by Pespective Publishing. You can probably get it on Amazon. It's got a lot of good information and advice that might prove a good jumping-off point for you. Good luck! Julie T.

Call Berkeley Mental Health about support groups. I know there is one that meets Tuesday evening for parents of bipolar children. I think mostly the children are over 18 years old but the facilitator may know of another group for parents of younger kids. Good luck. It's wonderful you are reaching out for support. anon

My son has been on Depakote since August, though Kaiser has not officially diagnosed him as pipolar, because he fits the criteria for both ADHD-Hyperactive and bipolar. In any event, he's moody and difficult to manage at times. I don't have a! ny solutions, I'm looking for an NPS school for him. He doesn't have any LD and is very bright. Max's Mom

Hi, first of all, with the right medication, your kid will not even notice he/she is bipolar. Second, I know of a wonderful doctor who used to be a pediatrician and now is a psychiatrist. She is a very positive and very capable woman. Her name is Virginia Blacklidge, she works in Kensington, and her number is (510) 525-9116. Good luck to you. anon.

While our child does not have Bipolar Disorder, we are part of a parent support group which includes 2 families with children with this diagnosis. Feel free to email me for more info. Zach

Hi, I wonder if your child is taking medication? I'm an Alexander Technique teacher and develompmental psychologist who works with adults and children in a holistic, body oriented way. My approach with children entails a series of physical, mental and emotional exercises which encourage a child to relax. An awareness of the breath and body develops, so when the swings come the child can learn to consciously relate to the stress of it through his/her own body. Sincerely, Susan

You might be interested in attending the workshop that Kiki Chang, MD is doing in a few Bay Area locations at the end of this month/ beginning of next month. He is a Stanford doc & is an expert on childhood & adolescent bipolar disorder. I work in adolescent psychiatry & several of the doc's that I work with speak very highly of him & his work. Email me if you are interested in more information. Romy

Support for bipolar 4th grader

April 2003

Does anyone know of a good therapeutic day school for a bipolar fourth grader? Or of any highly recommended residential programs? Has anyone taken part in a residential study where the child was taken off their medications? Did the pros outweigh the cons? The last question is: Does anyone have personal experience with the Lincoln School in Oakland? Would it be appropriate for a gifted fourth grade with emotional problems? How are the staff? academics?

I don't know specifically of a good therapeutic day school for a 4th grader, but I can recommend the NAMI support group for parents of kids with mental illness. There are people there who know quite a bit about residential and therapeutic placements in the area. The group meets on the third Tuesday of the month, from 7-8:45 at the Albany United Methodist Church, 980 Stannage Avenue at Marin. If you would like to talk more with me, call me. A Mom

Psychiatrist for Bipolar

Feb 2003

I am looking for a psychiatrist for bipolar disorder.We were assigned a psychiatrist on an emergency basis and are not too happy with him and want to find someone else to handle his medication and therapy. Does anyone have a recommendation for a psychiatrist *on the Pacificare Behavioral Health* list? Thanks. Anonymous

I don't know if he takes your insurance, but Shane McKay did very well diagnosing and prescribing for my stepdaughter who has bipolar. anon

I have experience seeing Rick Trautner MD for bipolar. I recommend him highly for medication management. He is very knowledgeable and up to date on new and old medications. I have also found him to be extremely easy to talk to. He also takes PacifiCare!!! You can reach him at: 510 649-1592. He is located in Berkeley on Dwight Way, across from Alta Bates. Anon

Bipolar Teens & Young Adults

Support for bipolar 23 year old

March 2013

Hi all, My daughter is no longer a teen...she's 23....but she has bipolar and had her 3rd manic episode while tryng to finish up at Boston University. She's coming home with me to Berkeley when she leaves the hospital and we're hoping that she will be in the Alta Bates Partial Hospitalization Program. I am trying to find her some supportive housing while she does that and most places are only for very low income...The irony is that I have very good insurance, but the only place I know of that takes it is in Palo Alto! Any ideas or similar experiemces would be appreciated....thanks, K K

A wonderful and compassionate book on a child with bipolor, written by a young woman and her mother: Perfect Chaos . - wishing you well

Dear K, Here are a couple of resources.
PREP- prevention and Recover
Berkeley psychiatric Services
NAMI- Nation Alliance for mental illness
FERC- Family Education and Resource Center

I suggest you contact the East Bay local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mentally Illness (NAMI). They have many knowledgeable volunteers who have a wealth of information and resources. Besides that, they have monthly support groups if you are interested in going yourself to meet and get support from others that are in a somewhat similar situation. You can telephone them at 510-524-1250, email namiestbay [at], website

I know of 4 students this year that are seniors in college and had an episode. One goes to Harvard, another to UC Berkeley, another to CCA and one from U of Oregon. My best to you and your daughter You are not alone

Please Help/ Direction For Bi-Polar 25yo Daughter

March 2012

I have a lovely 25 year old pretty high functioning daughter who has been diagnosed as Bi-polar. She is talented smart, funny and a genuinely lovely person. She seems under motivated. Some of her choices and decisions concern me. She wants to live alone and wants to work however she seems to lack many everyday type of life skills. Doing well in school will not be difficult. She is very smart but living alone without some life skill training concerns me. My daughter is on low dose medications. Her doctor is Bernard Wittenberg. I don't know what to do next however I know in my gut someone out there has been successful in navigating a positive and productive life. Are there programs you believe in? Another doctor who you have had great results? Do you know Dr. Wittenberg? Do you have ideas or suggestions? Please help me. I have no help but I know that many of you have probably found great, creative or good solutions. I am grateful for any direction.

HI, My stepson was diagnosed as bi-polar at a young age. He has had bouts of substance abuse resulting in incarceration. He has lived on the streets and basically burnt bridge and scoffed at every opportunity. In comparison your daughter sounds fantastic.

We found DBSA in Berkeley very helpful. It is for both family and the diagnosed. They break off into groups and which are mixed or not depending on how people are feeling and what they need to talk about.
DBSA Berkeley Bipolar Contact 1: Janna Wertz Phone: (510) 653-2959 Contact 2: Mayona Endahl Additional Phone: (510) 420-0868 Email: berkeleybipolar [at] Website:
>Good luck. W.

Team approach for bipolar 14-year-old?

Jan 2008

Our fourteen-year-old is crashing and burning. He is constantly angry, steals from us, has few friends because he's verbally abusive, is purposely failing in school (even though he's tested off the charts). After years of seeing different therapists and doctors, I think I need a team approach. My sister's son has autism and she's had therapists come in who've made a real difference. How do I compile a bipolar-knowledgeable team to come to our home and help with his meds, his physical exercise, his relationship issues? I know this may be dreaming on my part but I think a team of people could really help him and I'm not sure the alternative our psychiatrist is suggesting (sending him to a special school) will be best as he is adopted and already has abandoment issues. I would love your expertise and suggestions to throw this kid a lifeline before he gets in big trouble. Mom who knows Mom is not enough

My daughter is adopted & bipolar. I don't know about someone coming to your house, but our family sees Virginia Keeler Wolf, a family therapist.

Virginia focuses on adoption issues and has been much more helpful than our psychiatrist on how to deal with our daughter's bipolar issues. Everytime I see Virginia I walk in with the weight of the world on my shoulders and then walk out with a plan of attack & a positive attitude. Try her, she's great! I know what it's like & it's not pretty.

You do not mention whether your son is fully medicated (for his bipolar disorder) or not. Generally speaking, ''talk therapy'' or other psychotherapeutic interventions, are not helpful in bipolar patients who are not properly medicated. In fact, such ''talk therapy'' may even make the bipolar behavior worse.

Also, the use of certain ''stimulant'' drugs (either antidepressants or stimulants themselves) in the absence of proper medication for mood stabilization, can aggravate bipolar behavior.

Please discuss this with the psychiatrist (M. D.) who is managing the medications. Robert

Please contact Dr. Koran at Stanford Hospital's Department of Psychiatry. They have excellent adolescent psychiatry and it is worth the trip. I know that everyone has different experiences and no one person or group is 100% effective, but he is definately worth a try. mom who knows

This isn't what you asked for, but how sure are you that your son's diagnosis is correct? He does sound like he has some bipolar symptoms, but those behaviors could be due to something else. If your sister's child has autism, you might ask a professional to rule out an autism spectrum disorder in your son, like Asperger's. (There's a strong genetic component to autism spectrum disorders.) I'll be curious to hear if others know of therapeutic team members who come to the house. A mother and professional in the field

There are programs called ''wrap around'' where social workers and such come into the home to help with ''issues'' I'm not sure what the qualifications are for such a program, but you can call either Fred Finch Youth Center or Seneca Center, both have programs in Oakland and other Counties. They would know where/how to direct you. Good Luck

I have a therapist (psychologist) named Rebecca Epstein, who treats me for bipolar disorder, and I truly love her. She has a lot of experience with children and with families, is VERY in touch with research and developing knowledge, is clearly and competently driven by the desire to help people, and knows psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists well enough to have chosen her recommendations to people based on their individual personalities and cases. She helped make suggestions for my brother-in-law, without seeing him, regarding psychiatrists who are familiar with his (unrelated) circumstances, can make home visits, etc. Her husband, Robert, is also a psychiatrist in the same office.

I'm not sure whether she's listed, but her outgoing message did not say anything about not taking new patients, last time I called. If you don't find her otherwise, feel free to email me and I'll see whether I can put you in touch with her. jmlynn [at]

The Bodin Group in Lafayette uses a team approach -- they serve as consultants, monitors, and advocates for kids and their families. Their focus is on residential programs, but they have a range of expertise and relationships with a wide variety of professionals, so they may be able to help your son. I'm sure they'll let you know if their services are not a good fit with your intuitions. mom with son in a Bodin-monitored program

''Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager--7 Steps to reclaim authority and reestablish love'' by Scott Sells describes how to put a team of family, school, community into place to support your efforts to keep your teen alive and on track. He says sending kids away places the authority there, outside the family. So the same problems start again when the kid comes home because the authority issues haven't been dealt with where the kid lives permanently. The best part is he advises ways to show love as well as work on the out-control-behaviors. He also has a website called The Savannah Family Institute where you can get info about his approach. Even though my child (also adopted and bright) is only a pre-teen, his book and approach were the first to actually deal with the burgeoning behaviors-- defiance, stealing, lying, physical violence against parents--and give me hope that my child won't end up in jail or murdering family members (no joke). Good luck.

I have been where you are and by learning the hard way, I am not there with my now three other teens. In my opinion (which along with three bucks will buy you a latte) there are five KEY elements that you need to focus on:

1) Release this ''abandonment issue'' as a valid crutch to not setting powerfully loving boundaries. If picking coffee amoungst the peasants in Costa Rica is what he needs, you are not abandoning him. We did not show our first that we cared enought to send him to resilience training as we fell victim to the ''abandoned'' game. Now he is in Iraq and quite possibly emotionally irretrievable. There are several teen programs that I would recommend: Outward bound, cross ventures, etc... Go on line to find the right one.

2) Get a fresh horse. The stream is too strong. Call in your brother, father, minister. He needs to see some MAJOR strength in you and his tribe. He is watching.

3) Get the best therapist specifically for his age. Karen Sprinkel @ Clearwater in Oakland is an amazing woman that undertands the teen boy.

4) remind your son EVERY DAY that you are positive this is finite, that every teen experiences some disequilibrium, and that you will both look back on this and laugh. There is NO REASON to not have confidence in his ability to rebound.

5) Call on the power of your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and imigrant ancestors that live dormant in you. They did all this without meds. Most importantly, remember THEY are with you. reenie

Support Group for teens diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

December 2006

Am wondering if there are any support groups in the Bay Area for parents/families who have a teenager who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? Our daughter sees a therapist and is on medication, has been hospitalized, but no one seems to have any recommendations for a support group. She's struggled with depression and cutting as well the past few years.

It is an often lonely journey for families and to be able to talk to other parents who are living with this illess 24/7 would be extremely helpful. This has also affected our son who worries about his sister and sees her mood swings regularly. We've been very honest with him about her illness as we don't want to add to the stigma that exists about not talking about mental/nervous disorders. We go to family therapy, which is helpful, but sometimes it would just be nice to sit down and chat with other families.

I've read and done alot of research on the subject, but to be able to sit down with others on occasion would help my husband and I to know that we aren't alone in this journey with our daughter.

Thanks for any suggestions anonymous

For the parents looking for a support group: I attended this group a few times early in 2006 when my duaghter's 18 year old boyfriend was diagnosed with this illness. It's run by ''consumers'', folks with bipolar disorder, many of whom are in fairly good medication control, but who have horror stories to tell. They break into groups, usually 3 groups of consumers only, and one group for family/friends and consumers together. Daughter and BF attended with me once and we were in the mixed group, which was the only way they could stay together. His reaction was that there was no one there he connected with except a young woman in her early 20's. It was really heartbreaking to see the families of people hospitalized upstairs at Herrick Hospital struggling with the revolving door hospitalizations and downhill course of bright, talented loved ones. I found it helpful to see that my perceptions of the situation were for the most part valid, but quite depressing overall.

They also have meetings/speakers which address various aspects of dealing with this illness. Useful, including the consumers' comments and observations.

Free, and worth a try. Anonymous

Contact NAMI in Albany at namieastbay[at] for information about their monthly support group for parents of teens and young adults with mental illness. Most of the families who attend these meetings have teens with bipolar disorder. Andrea

There are a couple of support groups for parents of bipolar youth. One is located in Lafayette/Moraga area, and I know another new one was starting in the Fremont area. If you go on the website of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (Google it, and you'll find it...) can get all sorts of helpful information, including information on local clinicians who specialize in working with bipolar, and the parent support groups. I believe the one I mentioned is sponsored by NAMI (National Alliance of the Mentally Ill) of Contra costa County.

Contacts with the support groups may lead you to a group for teens. The parents in the groups are very savvy about services available.

Also, there is a wonderful resource, Camp New Hope ( which is an overnight camp held for a weekend in June at Camp Arroyo in Livermore for kids with a bipolar diagnosis...Overseen by the Pediatric Mood Disorder Clinic at Stanford.

Good luck anonymous

There are at least two parent-only groups you could attend. In Lafayette, there is a support group solely for parents of bipolar children (though of course no one is excluded because of uncertain or varied diagnosis) at the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church ~Rm.#4~. The group meets the second Monday of each month 7-9pm. No RSVP is needed to attend. Visit the group's website at I attend this group and it has been very helpful.

In Albany, there is a parent support group for parents of mentally ill children (all diagnoses) that meets monthly at a church on Marin.(I used to attend this group and it was very helpful, too--I switched because we moved to Contra Costa County.)

Both these groups are sponsored by NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which has chapters in each county. The phone book lists two numbers for NAMI in Alameda County:(510) 835-5010 and (510)653-2162. One of these numbers is bound to lead you to someone who can tell you when the parent meeting now occurs. NAMI is a great resource--a Google search might turn up further help.

I know of no support group for the bpteens themselves Especially with cutters (my son is one too) it would have to be professionally-led. The New Hope group has talked about a sibling group but we thought it should be professionally led, too and it hasn't gotten off the ground.

If anyone has information about such a group, please post it! Mom of bipolar teen

Teen with bipolar disorder and meth addiction

Jan 2006

I am close to a bright 19 year old young man who has recently been dual-diagnosed with the above. He has Kaiser coverage, was hospitalized for a few days with symptoms of psychosis, then discharged on three psychotropic medications for the bipolar diagnosis. He attended an outpatient group briefly, but felt that the other young people were much sicker than he (and it sounds like he's right), and stopped going. He stopped one of the meds without consulting his psychiatrist, and just changed from a Solano County Kaiser to Oakland Kaiser. He reports having finally seen a psychiatrist who (he reports) told him to ''take [his] meds and [he'll] either relapse or not''. No referral for any other kind of help. No mention of the chemical dependence issues.

Meanwhile, I've been reading a very good book for people with bipolar disorder and their families which emphasizes structure, support and information of all kinds, as well as a working relationship with health care providers. I've given him the book, and he felt encouraged upon reading around in it, so what felt like a rebuff at Kaiser was hard for him.

Personally, I feel that the mental health diagnosis has to be adequately addressed before we have a shot at dealing with the substance abuse issue. He denies active meth use at this time, but is smoking pot. And I don't know whether to believe that he's not using meth.

Does anyone have experience dealing with Kaiser around these two diagnoses? Must we have a fundraiser to see if he can get help privately? His parents, while concerned, have their hands somewhat tied due to Kaiser's confidentiality rules, and do not have the cash it would take to get private care. The young man has such a high anxiety level that he can only work 4 hours per day and sometimes not even that.

Thanks for any help you'll offer. Anon.

The combination of bipolar disorder and stimulants is a ticket to disaster. Even traditional antidepressants, in the absence of mood-stabilizing drugs, can cause bipolar disorder to worsen irreversibly.

The key to successful treatment of bipolar disorder is pharmacologic therapy (drugs). A mood stabilizer such as Lithium, Depakote (or one of the other anticonvulsants found to be effective) is vital, and psychotherapy (''talk therapy'') is generally ineffective (and in many cases actually harmful) until the patient is controlled medically with the drugs.

Resistance to the medication regimen is common among sufferers (because the drugs tend to moderate the ''highs'' of the disorder), and it often takes months before the proper medication regimen is achieved. Also, patients with bipolar disorder should be managed by a psychopharmacologist, a psychiatrist (M. D.) with special training and experience in the area.

I am involved in several Lists for the ''significant others'' (including parents) of persons with bipolar disorder and can be e-mailed directly (see address below) for more information. Also, I would suggest surfing: for additional information and links. Robert

In response to Anon, and the 16 year old with methamphetamine issues and bipolar. I work for Kaiser, and have been in the mental health field for 25 years. It would be very hard for anyone to give advice on this type of situation without a LOT more information which of course is inappropriate in this venue. There are so many issues at play here. One is the substance abuse issue. Often, a person can be misdiagnosed in the midst of substance abuse. The symptoms of bipolar, or depression/anxiety can mimic the side effects of meth/pot/alcohol. So, I think the substance abuse issue should be dealt with WHILE dealing with the possible bipolar. While it is certainly not impossible, I find it hard to believe that a psychiatrist would overlook or dismiss the substance abuse issue. And marijuana is mentioned in your letter as a side issue, but it is not benign. I suggest that this family meet again with either the psychiatrist OR another psychiatrist at Kaiser. I have been there 3 years, but have had Kaiser coverage for many more and find it a very good health care service. Going outside of Kaiser is going to be expensive and you will not find the continuum of care that a place like Kaiser has to offer. Did the parents meet with the doctor as well? How much family involvement was advised?

So many unanswered questions for a very tough situation. Hopefully, this can be worked out through the teen's current Kaiser coverage. I have a very good friend who works only with children and adolescents. He charges over 1,000.00 for the initial work up. Granted, he takes several hours to days, and gathers much information from all sources, but it's quite expensive. Child and adolescent psychiatry is a sub specialty and it's tough to find a really good psychiatrist with openings....they are in great demand. Kaiser has many. Diane

A great person at Kaiser Oakland is Kitsy Schoen. She coordinates support and educational groups that may relate to what your friend is going through. Her number is 752-7983. I wish you the best, Anon.

My son attended Kaiser's Chemical Dependency Program for teens, New Bridge's youth outpatient program in Walnut Creek, had an intake at Thunder Road in Oakland, so I have some experience with the local options for addicted youth. He said the same thing as your teen: he didn't want to go, the others are sicker than him, they have different problems, etc. He didn't like AA meetings or NA meetings either. I think the Kaiser psychiatrist may be saying that mostly, addicted teenagers are hard to treat, the success rate is low and so unpredictable. Long term residential programs often work, but who can afford that? Your support, and your sense to look for treatment for the bipolarity is important. A nonprofit I now work with, Options Recovery S! ervices in Berkeley, is a free outpatient substance abuse center for people 18 and over. Many of the clients are dually diagnosed (have a diagnosis of addiction combined with trauma, psychosis, or bipolarity), though you don't know until someone stops using if there is in fact an underlying mental illness, because drug use can both cause the symptoms of it, and certainly masks it. In January they opened a clinic to provide free therapy by marriage and family therapists and medication monitoring to help those in the substance abuse program. The success has been amazing. Relapse rates have declined, and people who were really suffering found ways to stop self medicating to try to stop their mood swings, anxiety, etc. I don't know if he would be interested in this program (the average age is older than he is), but if he is, the person to call is Dr. Davida Coady, who was recognized this year for all she has done for the city. Tom Gorham ru! ns the clinic, is an expert in dual diagnosis treatment, and may be able to talk to him. And you, you can do the footwork, but try to let go of the outcome. After 4 years of putting me on an emotional roller coaster, my son moved out of Berkeley at age 17 and finally took control of his life: is living on his own, finishing high school, and is doing great. I don't think it was anything that I did; it was his choice to extricate himself from the stress of the city and the social scene that kept him in that spiral of use and abuse. Bless you. Anon

Bipolar Adults

Can't handle my aging bipolar mother

July 2013

Hi All, My mother has dealt with depression, anxiety, stress, and other conditions for years. She meets all the criteria for bi-polar. She makes irrational decisions, is happy then all of a sudden manically upset and screaming. She contradicts herself all the time to a point that makes no one including myself and my father ever close to her perfection. It makes for a very stressful relationship where nothing is up to her specifications because they always change. She has constantly been prescribed medication, but stops taking it contrary to her doctor's advice. She refuses to get help, which makes it get worse. As she is getting older and older, she is getting more and more off mentally. She worries and stresses all the time despite the fact that she has not held a steady job in about 25 years. I have offered to go to therapy solely on my own accord, just to try to get her to go to a psychiatrist. My cousin is a psychiatrist and has expressed concern for her behavior. I am afraid that if she does not get treatment soon, she will get worse and affect the family in very detrimental ways. Has anyone gone through something like this before? I can't handle the negativity and this erratic behavior anymore. I just moved home to her advice and promise that she would change, but I should've know better. It has just gotten worse. Jacob

I'm so sorry for your situation. I highly recommend the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill's peer support group. I think they have one in every county, and if the one in your county is not convenient, check a nearby county. It's a multi-week group where you meet with other people who have mentally ill loved ones. The curriculum is great, you'll learn a lot about her condition, and you'll learn some coping methods. This was all very useful for me when I was married to a bipolar II husband. NAMI can suggest other resources as well. wishing you the best

NAMI has a support group listing: Scroll down to Berkeley Bipolar; they should also be able to give you other resources if that group doesn't meet your needs/fit your schedule. You're in a tough situation; thanks for asking for help! Please know that you're not alone. Renee

Bipolar mother asking to move in with us

March 2013

Hi, My mother was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder though she's been exhibiting symptoms for about 15 years - instability, bad decisions, and getting married and divorced (breaking up and getting back together) more times than I can count.

She left husband #4 last spring and moved in with us. We supported her and gave her a stipend for 9 months. When we decided to move to California (from Colorado - in December) she was too fearful of ''California'' and the reputed ''stuck-up'' people so she married a guy (husband #5) she'd been dating for a month so she could stay in Colorado. She left him after 2 weeks and went back to husband #4. After 1 month she realized she doesn't want to be with him either and keeps asking (read: begging) to come live with us.

California is MUCH more expensive than Colorado and supporting her is a financial strain. She's applying for social security disability but doesn't think she'll get it. She has no savings, no income, and no healthcare - she applied for Medicaid in Colorado but was put on a wait-list for services.

I have a 3-year-old son who I would like to protect from my mother's decisions, general craziness, and bouncing around. She likes to introduce (even secretly) her new boyfriends to my son, so for months after she's broken up with them my son talks about ''Nanna's new friend ____''

She's started on some medication that doesn't seem to be helping any - she's still panicky and makes moving here sound like an emergency. She's my mother and I WANT to help, but the financial drain makes me feel resentful! I'm a stay-at-home-mom and it's my spouse's salary she's draining, our savings (college, emergency fund, vacation, and retirement), and I worry about her making more stress in an already tense marriage.

I'm asking:
1. Should I allow her to move in - with new rules like no men, take meds, see a shrink, ask for an exit strategy, etc.
2. Is there any free or reduced mental health care in the Berkeley area?
3. Any ideas for house rules with a live-in mother?
4. Any other ideas or thoughts?

Thank you very much for any input, good or bad!

P.S. I LOVE California and haven't met anyone who's been ''stuck up'' yet That was her impression from 3rd party rumors and probably Hollywood movies. Christine

First, I want to say I admire your caring attitude. I don't have any direct advice but there are some resources you could call: the Berkeley Mental Health department, the Over 60 clinic (also for Berkeley residents), and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness which is an excellent support group for people with mental illness and their families. I think NAMI would be a good place to start so you could find out what other people in similar situations have done to help their family members, and also talk to people about which psychiatrists are good for medication management. anon

Don't do it. She will not change even if you set ground rules. And you'll be spending precious energy taking care of her while your first priority should be your child and his needs. It is painful to say no to a parent, but that's what you have to do. Jane

Sweetie, this is very hard. But your mother should clearly NOT live with you. You have enough on your hands with your marriage (which needs nurturing, it seems) and your son (who needs stability) and the difficult financial demands of living in the Bay Area. (I love California, too, but it will take a toll on many families' finances.) Your son is too little to understand his grandmother's issues. Your husband needs a partner. I hope that others on this list with experience in the mental health field will be able to help with suggestions about group living or other accommodation for people in your mother's situation. But I am afraid you would sacrifice your family to your mother's illness, with little profit for her. pragmatist

You're in a real tough spot. But for what it's worth (from a psychologist), I would highly discourage you from allowing your mother to move in. Simply put, you need to put your own household (especially kids) first. If you anticipate a huge disruption and a myriad of problems resulting from her moving in, and negative impact on the children, your first duty is to them. And honestly, your mother probably needs some ''tough love'' on becoming independent. If she can try and solve some of her problems more or less on her own, she will likely do better. You can feel free to offer her lots of moral support via phone/Skype, help with researching and applying for aid (at least in California, I don't know about Colorado) people with bipolar often qualify for SSI/SSDI. If she has any record of being hospitalized or otherwise treated for bipolar her current and past therapists and psychiatrists can provide valuable information to help her receive aid. You and your husband and kids need to feel comfortable and emotionally safe and you already know how things go when she is living with you. It's hard to refuse your own mother but surely you can find a way to offer plenty of help (even some financial assistance in emergencies) without allowing her to move in. I believe it will also help her in the long run. She needs to feel like a capable adult. She can become self-sufficient and it's not worth the strain on your family. They need to come first. Good luck. Cristabel

Your mom sounds a lot like my mom. Honestly, I would never consider letting her live with us, I couldn't imagine the stress I'd have and the strain on my marriage. I would only ending up resenting her, it wouldn't end well. Good luck with your decision. NB

Your highest priorities at this time should be your marriage and your child. If your mom has already placed strain on the marriage, and you don't trust her around your child, then you absolutely should not allow her to move here. She may be waitlisted for social services in Colorado, but eventually they will come through if she has a legitimate disability. Of course you feel like you have to help her because she's your mom, but she has taken advantage of you in the past and could potentially ruin your family life if you were to let her move in with you. Don't risk it.

Do what you can for her remotely (help to fill out paperwork for State aid, etc.), but don't let her continue to take advantage of you and your family. That would only be enabling her, and the problems would likely just get worse. J

Wow, tough call. As a mental health professional I know there have been siginficant cuts to services, at least in CoCo County, and not sure how California compares to mental health services/resources in Colorado. If she's already established with treatment and care in Colorado, it may not be worth uprooting her. That said, I would make sure she's got some fixed income like SSI or SSDI on board first before relocating her. Once that kicks in, and it takes at least 6 months or longer, you might consider a board and care home vs having her come live with you. Of course where she lives would depend on how much her income is. And weighing the pros/cons and the stress on you and your family. You might check out 'When Someone You Love Has A Mental Illness' by Rebecca Woolis, has lots of guidelines in setting limits w/family members, and addresses housing issues, setting boundaries, treatment compliance, ... Good luck!

My ex-husband was bipolar and our three years of marriage were really hell. Caregiving an unstable mentally ill person is huge and exhausting and sucks the life and energy out of every other thing.

I strongly advise you not to let your mother move in. She sounds like she has bigger problems than you can deal with. And I really understand how much you want to take care of her--I wanted to take care of my husband, too, but my support of him didn't actually help. My father was mentally ill as well, so I really, really get what you're going through. But you have to take care of your own family (spouse/children) first. Your mom can destabilize everything, and will still be unstable herself. You cannot fix this, so don't sacrifice yourself.

I would decide what you can actually do without risking your family, and do that. Can you make calls to social workers/mental health clinics? Contribute $200/month to support her? Whatever it is, do that and no more. Make it clear to your mother what you can offer and what you can't. Draw those boundaries like your family depends on it, because it does. older and wiser

You should definitely not let her move in. You have already done more than enough for her and it's time for her to take care of herself. I know this sounds harsh and she will probably experience it this way as well. She will probably be very upset with you, so make sure to get support from others. But, for the sake of your marriage and your child's well-being it is imperative that you stand up to your mother and draw the line here. The best way to teach your kids healthy boundaries is to role model them. If you want to help her, only offer her help that you and your husband are totally comfortable with giving (nothing that strains your finances or drains you emotionally). Anon

Personally, I think you have done enough to help your mother and I think the negative impact on your kids is the most alarming possibility. But I have to ask, what does your husband think? Have you consulted him? Have you thought about how you will feel if you don't help? What if she ends up on the street, will you help then? It is really important to consider the pros and cons of each decision and try to figure out how this is going to play out. Anon

I'm sorry you are faced with this difficult decision but I bet you will get lots of responses telling you not to do it. As an outsider, the answer seems obvious. You know in your heart (from the sound of your email) that your mother moving in with you would be disastrous. Whatever choices you need to make in life, you should listen to your intuition and inner knowing. Once she is living with you, it will be much harder to ''put her on the streets'' if she doesn't get her act together.

I have the same problem as you, I feel the need to ''save'' people. She is your mother but you don't have ruin your life to ''fix'' hers. If you weren't around, she would figure it out. You don't have to completely turn your life upside down to ''fix'' hers. Chances are you won't be able to fix hers and yours will be messed up.

You can help her find appropriate social services or find her a case worker to do so. She can start in Colorado or if she really wants to live in CA, tell her she will need to support herself and find a place to live. There are senior housing places. There are long wait lists though so the sooner she can get on them, the better. I think most people get denied SSDI the first time they apply. Tell her not to give up and keep applying. She can get on Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in CA) and will get services eventually. There are a ton of nonprofits that help the mentally ill and homeless in the Bay Area. If she is being supported by you, she will be less likely to qualify for programs. She can get food stamps.

I don't think it's harsh to expect a grown woman to pay her own way. My mom does live with us and she has very little savings as well. She does pay some rent from her small social security and she has a great relationship my daughter and doesn't make our lives crazy so it's worth it. Take care of yourself too! -Good Luck!

While I agree with other respondents that you must look after yourself, I also believe that we need to look after one another, especially in bad times. It certainly sounds like your mother is too ill to look after herself in any proper manner, and if I were in your shoes I would want to do all I could to help out. That may not include letting her move in with you- only you know if that's actually workable- but hopefully it can include helping her find good medical treatment for her disorder, which should be priority #1. Nothing's going to change or get better if her mental illness is out of control.

You say that she's taking medication but that it isn't helping, so she needs a doctor who knows what to try next- there are a number of different treatments, and it's trial and error to find the right one. If she's willing to take medication and will take it daily (often a major problem in treating BP), then she is being as responsible as she is capable of being given the severity of her illness. Other respondents seemed to suggest that tough love would teach her to be responsible, but that kind of attitude shows a lack of understanding of the crippling nature of mental illness. Whatever talents and strengths your mother possesses are of little use to her as long as her illness is raging.

If I were you, I would ask my mother for permission to speak to her doctor- you need info and you need to assess the doctor. Ask questions about her illness and about the treatment plan that will help you be supportive of her. If the doctor seems uncaring or incompetent, then help your mom find a new one by making calls and doing phone interviews.

Best of luck to you and I hope that some of this is helpful. anon

Just want to reiterate what others said. Don't have your mom move in. There was nothing in your post that gave me any indication that you were willing to put yourself and your family first. I have a bipolar sibling, and another sibling with another issue, and my parents are getting better but they are also a little crazy. I can tell you that it takes conscious effort for me to identify my own needs and put them first. Your mother is a black hole. Worse than my sister, who is a black hole too, but she's not trying to move in with me and suck me dry. Think of your mother as a dementor. I know it's hard, because we all want to love and be loved by our parents, but your mom is not fully capable. Tough love is the way to go. Think about YOU. Draw your boundaries, clearly, and let her know. Do NOT waver. In the end you'll feel better, although you'll probably be sad for your mother. That's just the way it is. You really don't have the resources to support your mother fully, and you don't sound like you have a separate unit or house for your mother, which would be the only way to make it work that I can think of. You need your sanity. It's not your fault, ok?

Bipolar ex

Nov 2012

My ex is bipolar and has been hospitalized in the past. Since we separated it's definitely been downhill for him. It's been rough navigating his moods/parenting skills from another house/city. Of course the kids love him and even cover for him, but there are times when he's clearly not being a solid parent, i.e., emotional volatility and even threats of violence, mostly towards me. I want him to be a happy, engaged parent/human but I'm done managing him. He's off his meds and is currently behaving erratically. A perfect scenario is either a) he's taking good care of himself and our kids (he has part time custody) or b) he gives me full custody. Does anyone have any experience with this? A restraining order or any authoritarian intervention will decidedly send him off the deep end. wish I lived in the Netherlands

My sister could have written this exact message although perhaps she has a more threatening ex (threatens her, himself, and the kids). My aunt who is a psychiatrist said the most reliable indicator of domestic homicide is verbal threats and that the most important thing for a woman's safety is to not provoke him. As you said, restraining orders and involving police can be seen as provocative, but getting things (even verbal threats) documented by police will be important for custody decisions. In any case, never EVER be alone with him. Transfer the kids at school or in public, do not let him in your house, etc.

She lives in France so laws and cultural norms are a bit different and less favorable to women. She's been through the wringer over the past 18 months, but she's learned a few things about how to create boundaries and deal with her husband. They are separated, but divorce hasn't really started yet because she fears it will open a new round of violent threats and they have found some small sense of peace for the time being. My brother-in-law is a charming person, a good dad, and has a lot of redeeming qualities. It's incredible challenging, complicated, emotional, and stressful/scary.

You're right, you can't control or manage him. You divorced him for a reason. He's not mentally stable. Give up the stable co-parent fantasy. You cannot go middle ground with someone like this, i.e. reasoning with him.

Assess how damaging the behavior is to the kids and either A) if the damage would be worse if they didn't see him at all, keep the current custody/visitation situation and let the kids experience whatever they experience and help them cope with it the way you would if they had a bad friend. From your own separate life without communicating with him at all. Take advantage of his natural irresponsibility if that's possible and let their contact with him diminish on its own. B) protect them from him, go totally legal, document everything, get a lawyer, take it to court and get full custody and supervised visits. Get a temporary restraining order while this is in process or send the kids to family out of the country if that's an option. Him going off the deep end is not your problem.

This is a rhetorical question off the subject, is the behavior new or did it exist before kids? Did it show up before any of the kids were born? Why risk having even one kid with an unstable person who won't take care of himself? No judgment, I'm just saying you had a hand in creating the situation and maybe from a spiritual perspective your kids did too. Remember your own part in it. Do your best and it will be imperfect but ok in the end. - maybe the netherlands isn't such a bad idea?

Living with Bipolar/Alcoholic Person

Oct 2012

Hi, I've been married 26 years to a man who is normally a loving husband and father. He's had two manic/alcoholic ''episodes'' within the past 4 years. One lasted 6 months; the other a whole year.

He lost his job following the latest episode. He's seeing a psychotherapist and we are jointly seeing a family therapist. Things seem to be ok again.

My big fear is that he will suffer another episode and I'm not sure i can go through hell again. Can anyone offer advice on how I can protect myself legally? I would like to draw up a legal document, kind of like power of attorney or some such document where my husband would authorize me and some other trusted friend or his psychotherapist to have him admitted to a residential treatment program as soon as it becomes clear that he is suffering another manic phase.

Any ideas on where I could get help with this, if at all? Thanks so much for any thoughts/suggestions etc. you can share! Afraid of Repeat Mania

I am so sorry for the challenges facing your husband and you; living with chronic and persistent severe mental illness is a difficult thing for everyone involved.

Please contact FERC and NAMI

They will help you to find support, learn your rights and how to negotiate a complicated and under-resourced system, and how to get him hospitalized when manic.

Make sure you care for yourself, so you can continue to care for him. Caregivers often put the other's needs first and then anger and burnout are evident and will come quicker.

Best wishes on your road. support IS key!

I think you're right that it's really important to have a good plan in place if your husband has difficulties again. There are a few books I'd recommend. All but the last specifically include strategies for coming up with 5150 or other emergency plans that you were hoping to learn more about. (The last one is just really good).

This is a little simplistic and isn't for everybody, but it does a nice job of explaining how to get a team together to help in crisis:

This one is an overview that includes a lot about families and how they can help:

And this one is a more scholarly/memoir that might help you understand the disease better: Anonymous

Speaking as a mental health professional, there really is no way for you to protect yourself legally in the event of a future manic episode. Your husband can only be admitted into treatment involuntarily if he presents an imminent danger to himself or to others - and imminent danger has to be demonstrated to be a concrete plan to physically harm.

If your husband is amenable, you can work out a plan of voluntary self- admission, but the problem, as I am sure you know, is that when a person is manic, they do not think they need any help or that anything is the matter. Nevertheless, it might help you both to agree to a plan, and if and when the time comes, you can try to insist on following it. Very tough situation

Therapist for spouse of alcoholic bipolar partner

July 2012

I am 50 and need help dealing with my alcoholic/bipolar husband and our 17-year old son. Any recommendations for a male or female therapist who has experience with issues that come up with being the spouse of someone who is bipolar/alcoholic? Any recs would be much appreciated! at wits end

I am sorry to hear about what is happening with your spouse. I highly recommend Cindy Blackett MFT, a therapist based in Albany on Solano Ave. I cannot say enough about her. She is utterly amazing. She made me feel at ease and spends time getting at the heart of the matter. Everything about her is so very real and authentic, I felt so understood by her. Please note that I spent valuable time and money on other ''therapists'' who would simply repeat back to me what I said. Cindy actually works on solutions and has dealt with very difficult problems such as alcohol, drugs and other additions. She sees a wide variety of people as well, including those with bipolar disorders. I highly recommend you call her to at least talk to you. You will not be disappointed. Call her office 510.540.5409 PP

Hi at wits end, You should call Cindy Blackett. I saw her for problems dealing with my teenager and she was really really helpful. I was in an impossible situation with my son and my husband totally disagreed with me on what to do. We saw Cindy about it and it ended up helping our marriage (and our son) enormously. I know she knows a lot about relationships with alcoholics and addicts too. RH

Bipolar Support Group for Patient Spouse

Aug 2011

Does anyone know of a support group in the East Bay for people diagnosed as Bipolar (BP II preferably but we're not fussy) and/or spouses of people so diagnosed? Any leads would be great. Thanks. UKMomma

You can try this national site - - which should list local bay area support groups. I would also suggest looking into a meetup group if there is one on - and if there isn't, you can create one. I am sure there would be others out there with the same interest and support goal. Anonee

How can my brother be evaluated for bi-polar/depression?

June 2010

To make a long story short, my brother has probably been an alcoholic for 15 years and a meth user for 2 years--he is 35 years old now. He recently went to a rehab facility paid for my my parents, then lived in a Sober Living Environment (also paid for by my parents). He nearly made it to his one year mark of being sober--then realpsed. In my heart and from research, I know he needs to hit a rock bottom, and yet there has always been a soft landing provided for him. This time, my family is tired of bailing him out and wants him to take responsibility for his progress toward a healthy life. That said, bi-polarism, depression and obestity run in our fmaily. How can my brother get his ''head examined'' to see if he is suffering from one of these diseases, and how can he get counseling for his self-esteem issues, when he has no health insurance? He is an incredible person with so much to offer--I'd LOVE for him to really start living his life-- and so would he! worried sister

The best resource that I know of for this sort of thing is the mood disorders clinic at Langley Porter Institute, the psych branch of UCSF. They can do an in-depth evaluation, more extensive than what a private doctor would do. It's not free, but it is sliding scale. Stanford also has an excellent mood disorders clinic, but I don't know if it also is also sliding scale. anon

Your description of your brother could have been of me. I am diagnosed as bipolar, have been treated since 2003, and am functioning very well with no substance abuse or depression. (I can't say that it's been a perfect road out of the hell, though, just to be clear, and I still live with limitations because of a mood disorder I can't deny.)

I hate to say that it cost me real money. But I can say that I'd never take it back. After landing, for unrelated reasons, on the couch of a psychologist (Rebecca Epstein in Berkeley) who charges top rates ($165/hr last I checked), doesn't work with insurance, but who stays at the TOP of her field through study of literature and association with researchers, I have concluded that the average psychologist is not equipped to ferret out a mood disorder from a mess of other masking symptoms. In addition, she chose to refer me to a psychiatrist (Shane MacKay in Berkeley) from a list of many she respects, based specifically on my needs and their combination with his strengths.

I went into serious debt to become diagnosed and treated. (Treatment is trial and error, and can take months to get right.) And I have paid all of it off because I am capable of holding down a stable job, only because of them. I hate to say this to suffering families, the bit about recommending big expenses, but I now firmly believe it's more expensive in the long run not to go that route.

All my best wishes to you and your brother. These are truly trying issues and times, and you are lovely to cast out for help. Remember, too, to protect your own well being. anon

Bipolar middle-aged relative in denial

Nov 2009

My siblings and I have been watching somewhat helplessly for years as the mental health of one of our relatives gets worse and worse. We all are in some agreement that it is likely our relative is bipolar, and we just don't know how to get the person diagnosed and/or treated. The relative, who is middle-aged, has had mental health issues before, and did well on Prozac decades ago, but somewhere along the way stopped all medical treatment. Gentle suggestions of getting therapy (talk or pharmacologic) have gone unheeded. Can anyone offer advice, anecdotes, or resources so that we can help our relative get help? help!

I'm so sorry to hear about your situation with your relative. We've had a similar problem with a relative. At one point we had to have him commited for observation because things were so severe. It is difficult to help someone when they don't think they need help. What we ended up doing was to find a really good private therapist that a therapist friend of mine researched and recommended. We pay for the sessions and he's going regularly. We got him to go by asking him to commit to try it three times and if he didn't like it or think it was helping, then he could stop. That was eight months ago. He's also on medications that Kaiser supplies via their M.D.s. The combination has made a world of difference. It is a difficult situation so be gentle with yourself. Sometimes there is only so much we can do for people. Good luck. Kathy

You might check out these non-profits for advice and info:

1. - Nat. Alliance on Mental Illness

2. depressive bipolar support alliance or

There are active chapters for family/friends all over. Take Care. Monica

Bipolar brother-in-law

May 2008

My sister's husband (age 38) has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I would like to find out more about it - to try and understand what he would be experiencing as well as to reason with some of my family members who think she should divorce him because of all the hurt that has been caused as a result. Can anyone recommend a good book for this? Anon.

Kay Redfield Jamison's Unquiet Mind is a good start. been there

There are are a couple of good informative websites that would be a place to start:
Good luck. Coping with bipolar is difficult for all those involved. It sounds like your brother-in-law must be getting some treatment (he received a diagnosis from someone), but I hope your sister is getting some support too. This can put a real strain on marriages and she will need a place to talk about her experiences and feelings. I wish your family the best. Carrie

Here are a couple of useful resources for you:

Obviously, as you recognize, it is your sister's own business what she does. If he is actively seeking and complying with treatment, and if she loves him, and if she is a compassionate person, why wouldn't she give treatment a chance to see if he can become his best self again? Anon

I was an untreated bipolar for 36 years. At my best, I was a near genius, especially in the art world. At my worst, I left a trail of chaos behind me wherever I went. When I was just 18, I was admitted to a psychiatric facility and identified as a manic-depressive, the old term for BP. I left after several months declaring to my fellow patients that, ''the difference between me and you is that you don't like being crazy, and I do.''. A bipolar often loves his/her condition. It is only after a lifetime of the shattering ups and downs, the alcohol and drug abuse, that I realized I needed help. It is very common for BP sufferers to seek help in their late thirties and up. All is not lost! Bipolar is eminently treatable. After receiving mood stabilizing medications, my life was almost instantly changed. My disturbingly mercurial nature was tamed and I was finally able to start repairing my life. A pill was not the sole answer however,I have to work with a psychiatrist on a monthly basis to monitor my condition and visit a therapist weekly who has helped me undo the ingrained patterns that I developed over a lifetime of craziness. Recovering from the effects of my condition require daily work and attention. The result? I have friends for the first time in twenty years. I went to college for the first time and have a nearly 4.0 grade average (I had never received an A in my life before). I can stay employed for more than a few months for the first time in my life. I can be a caring and loving husband now. In short, I can do things I never thought possible with my life and I can dream of better things. I only regret that I could have accepted my condition sooner and sought treatment. Who knows what might have been? Don't give up on loved ones with BP and don't be dismayed when they refuse treatment at first.

A really good book that has helped me immensely is ''The Bipolar Advantage'' by Tom Wooton, who is himself, bipolar. His website is and he also conducts great seminars.

I am in a similar situation. These books were recommended by my mother's psychopharmacologist; The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide by David Miklowitz, Why Am I Still Depressed by Jim Phelps and Bipolar Disorder, a guide for patients and families (Mondimore). Despite the cheesy title, the doctor recommended the first one most highly and I am finding it helpful. hope this helps

Sister is bipolar, dating her psychiatrist

Oct 2007

I have a problem that is probably too complex for this forum, but it's worth a shot. My sister is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Despite this lifelong affliction, she has managed to become a successful professional and functioned exceptionally well in society until about a year ago. Around this time (I think) she starting seeing a new psychiatrist. Soon after she was put on medical leave from her job and has undergone evaulations from the office psychiatrist there saying she was not ready to come back to work. This has left her finances in chaos, as you can imagine.

After her husband moved out and her house was foreclosed, she moved in with her psychiatrist! They are now a couple. We have never met him but find it highly unethical, especially since she seems no better psychologically. There seems no end to the downward spiral and we are not sure what to do. She can be very hostile when confronted with anything and only wants to hear praise and support, but my patience has really run out. I can't help but think this psychiatrist has something to do with this dramatic downturn. I actually hope this, because then there's a chance that she can become the charming responsible person she once was.

Any advice or similar experiences would be appreciated. anon

I'm sure you will get a lot of responses to this. This is not only unethical it is completely illegal. This person should be reported to the licensing board immediately. His license will be revoked for this, and should be. I'm not sure of the exact place you should call, but hopefully someone else will post here with that information. For your sisters sake and for the sake of the other people this person is treating, he MUST be reported. Anon

NOT OK! This is unethical at the least, and, if the psychiatrist began the romantic relationship while your sister was his patient, it is also illegal. I would recommend that you report him to the medical board. You can also inform your sister that his behavior is illegal, though it might not help. Unfortunately for you in this situation, your sister is a grown adult, able to consent on her own. She may continue the relationship even if the psychiatrist loses his license to practice. You might want to try to gently encourage her to find a new psychiatrist for her medication management, and to express your concern for her given what you know of the legal/ethical issues and her downturn. She is going to need to get out of this relationship on her own, and will need your support if and when she does that. As a therapist, I am so horrified when I hear of these situations. It is a total abuse of power on the psychiatrist's part, and so damaging to the patient. I'm so sorry for you and your sister. concerned therapist

I am a psychologist and according to our ethical principles, a therapist should never date a patient. There is some flexibility (although still very frowned upon) that after two years post-treatment termination, a therapist can have a personal relationship with a former client. I am not certain but would be very shocked if the American Psychiatric Association had different ethics. All said, you should report the psychiatrist to his state licensing board. He will be reprimanded and could lose his license if found to be guilty of this type of egregious malpractice. Good luck! Therapist for Ethical Practice

You will be swamped with responses, likely from many others like myself in the mental health field. ''Highly unethical'' is right. You have not met him but I hope you know his name, at least. Go to the California Medical Board, - click on ''consumer info'' and ''complaint info'' for guidance on how to file a complaint about him for investigation. You can download the consumer complaint form, and there is a section where you can check ''sexual misconduct''. Do this for your sister's sake and for the sake of other patients he might have (in past or future) treated similarly. This appears to be grounds for removal of his professional license. Good luck. Kate

Hi there- Although I do not really know fully how to respond to your posting, from what I understand, this guy is indeed unethical, to say the least. My recommendation would be to check w/the American Psychiatric Assoc. and the Board of Behavioral Science Examiners (the ones who license him) about what to do. I have been a social worker for 10+ yrs and there are very strict codes of ethics which those of us in the counseling fields must abide by in order to get licensed and sleeping with ones clients are at the top of the ''no, no'' list. Dealing with family members who are mentally ill can be very frustrating and exhausting and you also may want to check with the Nat'l Alliance for the Mentally Ill regarding family support groups. Good Luck, Anon anon

Your sister is very lucky to have such a caring and supportive relative in her life. It sounds like the psychiatrist is violating his professional code of conduct. Having a dual relationship is very harmful and confusing to patients. An ethical and solid clinician would hold this as the foundation for the treatment. I am more familiar with the legal/ethical codes for my own profession (MFT), but I believe similar rules apply for psychiatrists.

Therapy NEVER involves sex and it is damaging to enter into a romantic relationship with a current or newly terminated client (under 2 years). Period. This rule is very clear for MFT's. This is a very well known code for therapists in other fields.

If she is a current patient or newly terminated one, his conduct should be reported immediately to his professional board. IMHO, a therapist should NEVER enter into a romantic relationship EVER with a former client. It is only a recipe for disaster for the client. Amy

I am a Marriage Family Therapist and in my profession it is highly unethical to begin a romantic relationship with a patient. In fact it is suggested that the therapist/client relationship be ended at least two years before a personal relationship can begin. I would recommend you report this ''psychiatrist'' to the American Medical Association. He is acting very unprofessionally and is harming his patient in ways you may not even suspect. You can report w/o telling your sister, that's up to you, but I would report no matter what. Good luck-she's lucky to have a sister who cares so much... A Marriage Family Therapist

I bet you're going to get a hurricane of advice/input about this one. Here's mine: It IS unethical and unprofessional for a psychiatrist to become involved with a patient in any personal way, even on a friend-only basis. This kind of infraction really takes the cake. It is possible, even, that if the AMA/APA got ahold of this information, that this psych. could lose his license. It is also against the law for a physician to prescribe medications to his/her family. Whether or not your sister falls into the ''family'' category, I don't know, but I would check if this guy is prescribing to your sister and report it if he is, because your sister's physical andmental health is at stake, this ''professional'' is taking advantage of her, knowing her diagnoses, and this kind of relationship is potentially harmful to your sister in all kinds of ways. Of course the consequences could include your sister finding out and thus your relationship w/ her being seriously jeopardized. Anon

My heart goes out to you as you suffer the loss of the dear, sweet sister you knew, and watch helplessly while she descends into the chaos caused by her condition. I hope that she will get the right kind of help. A serious Bipolar Disorder is awful for the patients and for their families. Of course what the psychiatrist has done is considered unethical in every state. If reported to the appropriate authorities, it will have severe consequences for him. As to whether or not working with him caused your sister's problems, it is impossible to say. Losses can trigger depression. Fear or anxiety almost always aggravates an underlying bipolar manic condition. Other factors are said to be important in manic states as well, including medical conditions and the use of certain medications, as well as ''uppers''. Impulsivity is commonly seen in manic states. As to her marriage, it may have been falling apart already, or being ''crazy in love'' with the psychiatrist may have wrecked it. He may be unethical but desperate to help her and have terrible judgement in these matters, or he may be just plain wreckless. In any case, he's not helping, but who will take her in when he's out of the picture? I suggest you talk with a good psychiatrist who is an expert in bipolar disorders and who can help you know what could help your sister. Such a person can also help you to decide how to contact the appropriate authorities, if you wish. I don't have enough information about your sister or the expertise to help, but if you want to contact me offline, I'll try to help you find a good local person to help you. First you might want to Google the local or national headquarters of the Depression/Manic Depression association. It is, or at least was, made up of those living with the condition who are helpful and know good sources of information. And Stanford has a good program. Kay Jamison may still be there. In the rural Sacramento/ Northern CA area, there is a man, John Preston, Psy. D., who gives talks and courses various places on the topic for professionals. He sometimes admits family members of those who are bipolar. If you want some insight into what your sister is going through, read the two books by Kay Jamison, M.D., (see Amazon under books for descriptions). One an old but professional description and the other a gripping personal narrative of her own bipolar condition, which she and a network of friends and professional work to keep under control. Hope you find help and support. It is excruciating to be the family member of someone who is bipolar and cannot control it. But the right kind of help can be very beneficial. Judith

He should be reported to the AMA (American Medical Association). He could/should lose his license over this. The most you can do for your sister, otherwise, is show your concern for her, and your perspective on the sitution, and hope she makes healthier choices for herself. anon

Seeking psychiatrist who specializes in Bipolar Disorder

Sept 2007

I am looking for a outstanding psychiatrists that specializes in Bipolar Disorder. I am not happy with the care I am currently getting and would love a doctor who is up on the latest research and is really proactive. Thanks

The very best place to go for cutting edge care is a psychiatric teaching hospital- the one at UCSF is Langley-Porter Institute, and there is also one at Stanford. Both of them have affective disorders clinics. My personal experience with Langley-Porter was very good- they were able to help me with BPII disorder after several doctors in private practice hadn't been able to. Anon

I don't know if my psychiatrist specializes in bipolar, but I've been happy with my treatment of my BPII. He's willing to research and find out the latest on issues I've been having, and has made adjustments to medication that have been very helpful. His name is Donald Stanford, he's in Berkeley, and his number is 540-6235. anon

Bipolar or Depression--Need Diagnosis

June 2007

I am not sure if I am suffering from depression or if I am bipolar. I would like an accurate diagnosis so that I can start an appropriate therapy. Does anyone know of a psychiatrist who specializes in this area? Thanks! Anxious

I recommend that you contact the Mood Disorders Clinic at Langley-Porter Institute at UCSF. They offer diagnostic evaluations that are much more thorough than most private psychiatrists can offer. I went there years ago and finally got an accurate diagnosis (which in my case was Bi-Polar II) for a complicated depressive cycling that had gone on for years.

I don't know if it's structured exactly the same way now, but I met four times with a last year psychiatric resident who was overseen by a team of the best teaching psychiatrists in the country. As it happened, I didn't like the first resident I met with, and after the first session requested an appointment with someone different. The second resident, who I then had a full four sessions with, was exceptional, and I followed him into private practice for treatment after he was done with his residency.

I've heard that Stanford also has an excellent mood disorders clinic. Anon

I highly recommend Dr. Shane McKay at Berkeley Therapy Institute, 841-8484. He's an expert on bipolar disorder. Good luck -

I highly recommend Dr. Shane MacKay of the Berkeley Therapy Institute for this problem -- he specializes in bipolar spectrum disorders. I had on and off, but fairly serious, problems with depression since high school that medication never really took care of. He rediagnosed me as bipolar 2 (small highs, big lows) and prescribed Wellbutrin rather than an SSRI. (I had tried four or five of the usual suspects.) It has been working for me for 4+ years after more than a decade of struggle. He is very up to date on the latest research and let me tell you, I am a different person today. Good luck in finding a solution that works for you. Been there

Medication management for bipolar II disorder

April 2006

I have recently been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and am looking for a clinic and/or psychiatrist who is very skilled in medication management and is relatively easy to get a hold of. Any recommendations? I know about Stanford's Bipolar Clinic but am hoping to find something a bit closer.... Thanks. Hopeful

Psychiatrist: Stephen Sturges, MD Located on Dwight Way across the street from Herrick. Experienced in bi-polar. Not on insurance panels. 510-548-1189 I have also heard some positive feedback about treatment of bi-polar with psychaitrist Brad Engwahl, MD. Located in Albany. 510-559-1819 Good luck. Laura

I highly recommend Dr. Shane MacKay at the Berkeley Therapy Institute (at MLK and Delaware). I also have bipolar II and found him three years ago after a lot of research. I struggled to manage my depressive episodes for fifteen years -- no kidding -- with only moderate success, and had tried probably eight or ten medications. I started see Dr. MacKay at the beginning of 2003, and have been 90% stable since probably summer of that year, including through and after a pregnancy. (Wellbutrin was what worked for me; I also take fish oil supplements.) What really made the difference was that he recognized as bipolar II what I and everyone else had thought was straightforward major depression, and treated it accordingly. Medication is really his thing -- he's very up to date on the medical literature. (I see a psychotherapist separately.) Good luck with your search! Happy and stable

I'm in the same boat, bipolar II. The trick is definitely finding someone who is easy to get ahold of the first time. I couldn't get anyone to return my calls for days or weeks, other than to say I'd need to wait months or they weren't accepting new patients. I did get a referral to Donald Stanford in south Berkeley (540-6235), who called me back immediately. I found him to be incredibly perceptive and skilled pinpointing the right medications for me and making adjustments until we got it right. I wouldn't say he's warm and fuzzy, at least not at first, but I've come to see that's not what I really need. I am so glad I could find someone who is great at the medication side of this. You'll probably want to find someone else if you want to talk about strategies for dealing with the condition. It's not his forte, though he does listen a bit if you want to talk and especially ask questions about the condition itself. Good luck. anon

Not liking the meds for Bipolar II

Sept 2005

I was diagnosed with having Bipolar II a few months ago. Since then I've been on Depakote ER and Celexa. I have had it with the side effects that these meds are causing! I've also tried Wellbutrin and Topamax both of which I was allergic too! I talked to my Nurse at Kaiser and told her I've had enough and want to get off them and try a natural approach, of course she was skeptical about the idea. I have gained 21 pounds in 2 months I'm dizzy all the time and my mind just doesn't work like it used to I have no energy for anything, it's all I can do to just get up in the morning. I wasn't like that before! Frankly I feel worse now then I did before I started taking these darn drugs! I was wondering if anyone knows of a good Holistic Practioner that can help me figure out what do naturaly and safely. I've never sought out one and I don't know what to look for. Also if anyone has Bipolar and are being treated the natural way I'd love hear know what you are taking and how it's working for you. Thanks, Anonymous

Try looking at the icarus project site There should be alot of info as well as personal stories there that could be helpful.

I don't know about natural methods but if you can afford it, I would go to a psychiatrist outside of Kaiser to get your meds right. Sometimes the difference between feeling awful and feeling great is a half a milligram or a cocktail of drugs. In my experience, Kaiser is just not the place to make the slight adjustments that can make the difference. They have an all or nothing approach and just put you on and pull you off drugs abruptly and without making subtle adjustments. I have had this experience personally as well as seen how they medicate my dad and other friends. Your frustration with drugs may simply be because they are being administered poorly. Good luck to you! 5 milligrams difference between zombie and happy

Hi. I do not have an answer, but I share your experiences and would love to find a way to help myself. I am currently off medication and now, I can get out of bed in the morning, and I can enjoy myself and not just be in a funk, but the bads come more often and are much more severe! My mother has seen them at various times for various reasons and what I noticed, was that in addition to over $100 a visit (at least once a week) she was spending $100s of on bottles and bottles of suppliments and treatments - even $2 a liter for a more pure water. She has usually been happy with her experiences, and when she is not, I guess what she has invested is not a loss for her because she just moves on to the next person. That said, I do believe there is help out there, I just don't think I can afford it. Affordable things I have tried, include adding omega 3 to my diet, adding magnizium to my diet, meditating, group therapy (kaiser - Cognative Behavioral Group Therepy, this was a valuable group, but somehow not something I am willing to continue because I have been given the tools, now it is up to me to impliment them which can be very difficult when on a down cycle. In general, I have been pretty disappointed with my doctors at Kaiser, they seem to have little/no concern for my mental well being and for helping me find answers)....however, with all of the things I have tried, I have yet to find one that I felt was doing enough to continue. I am currently researaching cortisol (a chimical our brain produces) and how to manage it. Please feel free to contact me if you wish.

Briefly (feel free to e-mail me directly for more). A good over- view book for natural treatment for bi-polar (I also am diagnosed with bi-polar 11) is ''The Natural Medicine Guide to Bipolar Disorder'' by Stephanie Marohon........I have experience with different practictioners and methods. I'm most impressed with homeopathy which I am working with now. Barbara Osawa is very experienced and my friend who had really BIG bi-polar 1 has had such a life turn around with her.........Barbara Osawa 707- 257-6752...homeopathy is the most wholistic ''way'' I''ve come to. Treating the whole specific person, not a ''label'' that could cover everyone. The ''title'' bi-polar too big an umbrella for that.......Also website with a pretty wide range is ...... I won't go on.....good luck......Diana

Just a brief thought -- before you reject conventional medical treatment for Bipolar II, you might want to invest in a really good doctor who can tune your meds appropriately, even if that Dr. is not on your medical plan. You will find that it makes a huge difference. My husband was diagnosed by Shane McKay, and pays out of pocket to see him. Given that proper treatment may save my husband's life, and improve quality of life for our whole family.... the expense of seeing the right specialist is comparatively minor. Type II Wife

It would be akin to medical malpractice for a doc or nurse practicioner not to strongly recommend meds for you. The problem is that bipolar is a cyclical illness and sometimes when it comes back it can lead to serious life problems ( dropping out of school, relationship problems, incapacitating depression, loosing jobs, suicidal thoughts or attempts) These problems can lead to BIG TIME redirections in your life that you might not want, so it would be best to continue to work with your nurse practitioner to find something that works but isn't intolerable to you. Maybe ask for a second opinion or a review of your case by a psychiatrist.

Bipolar disorder is a serious illness. Consider it like diabetes- it can kill you.

By the way, even with the best of treatment some folks have recurrences of the depression but these are fewer and milder than they would be if you went untreated ( or used only alternative treatments).

Just my 10 cents and, yup, I'm a psychiatrist. Good luck, JM

I was also diagnosed with bipolar II eight months ago. I am very empathetic for what you're feeling. I really wanted to get off the side effect roller coaster, too. There are some things you can do, like taking supplements and omega-3, which I think will help, but I'd still suggest you stick with a medical approach to this for awhile. Bipolar isn't something you can work through with vitamins and therapy.

I'm not that familiar with Kaiser, but what concerned me is that you're talking with a *nurse* about your situation. Why are you not talking with a psychiatrist? I've been given a very different group of drugs from what you've listed and I can't help but wonder if you're working with someone who doesn't have sufficient knowledge of a very complex area of medicine. I think my psychiatrist saved my life, my therapist dragged alot of money out of me, my regular doctor is helpful but would have referred me to a psychiatrist, and no nurse I've ever had would have had a clue. I'd really push to talk to a doctor who specializes in psychopharmocology.

I've been on Risperdal, Geodon, Zoloft and Lamictal. It took me six months to go through all that, and there were some pretty awful side effects, but Lamictal has been amazing. There are so many drugs that are considered effective that you haven't tried. Some of the side effects I had a few months ago were worse than the disease. I've gotten to the point now that I can hardly remember what it was like being bipolar I feel so good.

Check out (some course language, but good information) and These are both good resources you can use when talking with doctors.

All the best to you. anon


Therapist for bipolar disorder

March 2005

My therapist recently referred me to a psychiatrist to look into medication for depression. The psychiatrist thinks that I have mild bipolar disorder. He has prescribed medication and it is working wonders for me. As I have started to read and understand the difference between bipolar and depression, I think that he is right and I've felt a real sense of relief that I can finally understand what's been going on with me for years. It has also really opened up alot of areas that I need to work on in therapy, but I'm not sure that my current therapist is the right person to work with. He initially said he didn't think that I was bipolar, but rather mildly depressed. He has been helpful in the past, but I'm starting to wonder if there is someone who would be better for me to work with. Though he is clearly happy to see me getting relief from the medication, sometimes I think he's still not buying the diagnosis, but it is the first thing I've felt clear about in a long time. (The psychiatrist does medication monitoring only, so that's not really an option.)

I'd prefer someone who is part of MHN, in the north Berkeley vicinity, and female (though that's not an absolute requirement). Any suggestions would be welcome. anon

Dr. Rebecca Epstein in Berkeley has helped me with adjusting to the problems associated with newly diagnosed and treated biplor disorder. She is not an M.D. but seems to have a lot of experience in this area. She gets it, the triggers, the stigma, the struggle to get and stay healthy. She has helped me a lot with impulsive behaviors and roller coastering moods until I finally was stable. Anon

I had a very good experience with Susan Drager when I first was diagnosed with mild bipolar disorder. I continue to see my psychiatrist to monitor my meds, but she but she helped me to work out a lot of other issues and to get my life back on track. She also taught me how to monitor and manage my bipolarism. Her office is in Oakland, by Lake Merritt. Anonymous

October 2002

I'm looking somewhat urgently for a Psychiatrist in private practice in Berkeley/Rockridge (or somewhere else in the East Bay easily accessible by public trans) who has a good knowledge of bi-polar disorder. This is for my 35-year-old son who has been diagnosed as bi-polar and has received some treatment through the county, but who now needs a regular and reliable m.d. of his own for treatment and prescription monitoring. nk

Richard Levine is an excellent psychiatrist. His office is in Berkeley. Telephone # is (510) 540-1746 good luck