Feature Archive

Is It ADHD or Bipolar Disorder?

Children with bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD, and ADHD medication won't help. Sometimes, children suffer from both.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

When Alex Raeburn was in the fourth grade, he started having discipline problems and occasional outbursts in school. Toward the end of his fifth grade year, he stormed out of the classroom, broke the glass face of a hall clock, then left the school building entirely. The incident landed him in the psychiatric ward of a hospital where he underwent testing, but he left without a diagnosis.

Alex's problems continued, so his parents took him to see a psychiatrist who had been recommended by his school's psychologist. "This doctor talked to my wife and I for 15 minutes, then to Alex for 15 minutes, diagnosed him with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and put him on Ritalin," says Paul Raeburn, who wrote a book about his son's experiences entitled Acquainted with the Night. When there was no improvement after a few weeks on the medication, the doctor suggested increasing Alex's dose.

"After we increased the dose, Alex became completely out of control, very volatile and angry," Raeburn tells WebMD. "He threatened to run out of the house and not come back, so we had to hospitalize him again."