10 year old, family history -- possible BP at this age?

Q: Ever since my child, Pam, now 10 years old, was born, she has been different from every child I have ever known. I often ask myself how 3 children, born of the same 2 parents, eating the same foods, being raised in the same home can be so different. Pam's mood swings have always been extreme. I was adopted when I was 13 and did not know much about family history. I now know that my father was diagnosed with "manic depression" and is now in prison due to his problems. Recently, Pam has been more extreme than usual, a new job for me, the early onset of puberty and a less than understanding teacher are all qualifying factors. I have asked the school psycologist to begin testing to see where she is at, he is looking into clinical depression, because all they see in school is a sad little girl with a low self esteem. At home, I see a different child, a wonderful artist and actress...very creative...but mean, nasty mean at times. Do you think bipolar disorder is out of the question?

Dear Ms. J' --
You seem to be taking just the right care to be very observant and not arrive at a conclusion prematurely -- and, yes, I think bipolar disorder belongs "in the question".  If you haven't found it yet, see the lovely site for parents of bipolar kids, which includes some good information to help you with this question (remember, it's not really yes or no but rather "is there some here, and if so how much?" -- i.e. of a bipolar component.  

Dr. Phelps

Published January, 2001