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22 Jul 2005

Regression and emotional immaturity/bipolar

My daughter, aged 7 was diagnosed with early onset bipolar disorder when she was 3. She is being successfully treated with Risperdal, occupational therapy, play therapy etc and most of the behavioural problems have been sorted.

What we still battle with is her emotional maturity and regression whenever there are changes in her life. School holidays - periods at home due to illness and now recently a move to a different house (from a residential house to a farm) all caused her already immature behaviour to regress even further. She currently does not want to bath alone, go to the toilet alone, dress or undress herself. She has a very high IQ and does not battle with school work or language.

She seems to love the farm - I leave the hall light on for her when she sleeps but she always has problems for awhile whenever there are changes in her life. She has started up her little rituals again - she carries a satin cushion around with her which she rubs against her face for comfort, she makes repetitive throat noises and pretends to be a dog or a parrot (her granny had to make her play suits).

What I would like to find out is how I can encourage her to be more independent and do things (age-appropriate of course) for herself? She has a very poor self image - despite me trying to build it up whenever possible. This situation is really frustrating for me right now!

She is also overly paranoid - every little noise has her jumping, she does not want to walk anywhere alone for fear that something bad may happen.

She was talking at the end of last year about the voices in her head. We had her evaluated by a clinical pshycologist who told us that it is attention seeking behaviour and that she perceives us to be very busy - both of us work full day due to financial reasons but I try to spend alone time with her every evening. She was displaying inappropriate sexual knowledge and behaviour end of last year as well - the clinical phsycologist said that she could not find evidence of abuse - that the information seemed to be coming from her peer group. She has since stopped any mention or undue interest in anything sexually related.

Her teacher mentioned to me this morning that she is emotionally very up and down this week - that she is worried about her. I am very worried right now, I know that I am very sensitive when it comes to my child and I don't want to overreact, I grew up very depressed, lonely and with a poor self image despite anything that my mother did to try to build me up. I would so like to be able to help my little one and make our family life a bit better.

My mother also has bipolar disorder, and the illness has had a devestating effect on her life as well as on those around her.

Could you possibly give me some advice or refer me to any useful information on the net?

Thank you!
Answer 5,134 views

01 Jan 0001

Sounds like a bit more than the most unusual diagnosis of early onset Bipolar Disorder, and as if a proper full re-assessment by a good local child psychologist / child psychiatrist would be best, with a review of her treatment needs. It sounds as though the clinical psychologist she saw made some wise assessments ( not automatically assuming there was abuse, for instance, and recognizing attention-seeking behavior) ; and should be well able to reconsider the current situation.
You say you try to give her much affirming attention --- try to make as little of it as possible random, and apply the pleasant attention and praise liberally whenever she does anything that moves towards the direction you want her to take --- more independent, and managing routine self-care tasks. Emphasize that you both feel proud of her Growing Up, and of the signs of her being a big girl now, and becoming more and more capable. So she gets the increased attention she wants, but for doing what you want. If she really, at first, needs so accompanying or assistance on simple chores of self care, make this assistance as minimal and unrewarding as possible, while again being lavish in praise for any part of the procedure she manages to do on her owm and for herself.
And take time to simply chat with her, and explore her imagination and ideas about things. Like Joanne E's child, she may be very imaginative, and I find few schools are able to either recognize or welcome that skill !
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