Saturday, August 6, 2016

Treating Bipolar with Autism

Good morning.

In recent years I had suspected that Tyler was bipolar.  But an issue we faced was we only had 15 minutes with his psychiatrist once every 3 months, which makes it extremely difficult to talk about a brand new diagnosis.  We did talk about it a few times as I was feeling more strongly that this was something that he was going through.  I didn't have any other explanation for why his routine would remain exactly the same all year long and yet he would suffer periods of what seemed like agitation and depression.  At other times he would be loud and boisterous and smile from ear to ear.  When he would feel depressed and anxious his face would literally look different.  He frowned, his jaw would seem tight and square, and he would look downward.  It broke our hearts to see him in silent pain.

So right before we found out about his residential placement I decided to act.  I would get an extended appointment where we would evaluate his diagnosis, along with my suspicions, and decide how we could react with his treatment.  Just then his placement came through AND his psychiatrist was leaving the area, so we decided to let the issue rest long enough to get him settled and have his new doctor on board.  The new doctor, we were told by many people, had a gift for helping people like Tyler to live a better quality of life.  I, being more skeptical than most, was not ready to believe it.  Yet the timing was right for a change so why not?

On our first meeting with Dr. V we had very open discussions about what we saw at home for so many years, along with our thoughts and concerns.  She shared her thoughts after having observed him and reading his records.  Her immediate and concrete belief was that Tyler was definitely bipolar. I was thrilled that he would now be treated in a way that would in time relieve some of the extremes he was experiencing.  Dr. V took the time to explain how Ty's current meds could be making some of those symptoms worse and how some other meds may help balance things out.  We now had a plan that in time could change his quality of life.

There are studies suggesting that bipolar and autism often coexist in special needs people.  As with everything involving autism, research is just beginning.

I suppose looking back I do wish that I would have pressed harder about my suspicions.  We had a doctor that Tyler really liked, and so did we, and who helped us get through some extremely difficult times.  That doctor did a lot in helping to stabilize Tyler and he will always be thankful for him.  But with that said, perhaps periodic change is not a bad thing either.  A fresh set of eyes, coming from a different specialty perhaps, could introduce new ideas.

Never be afraid to do your own research and ask questions.  We can't simply just rely on what any doctor tells us because they are seeing a snapshot of your special person, whereas you are seeing the whole picture.  And when the time seems right, get more opinions or new opinions.  Weigh the risk/reward of new treatments.  Continue to press forward for a better quality of life.

Be well and God bless.  Tom

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