Hello Dr. Phelps-

I am a 16 year old boy and I live in Illinois. When I am alone I often feel very agitated, hopeless, and I guess depressed.This has been for a while now, about a year or more. And I think a lot about death. I am good in school and I have a great social life. I want to figure this out, but there arent any signs noticible to others because it happens when I am alone. Please help me and tell mw that i should do. thanks for your time!

Dear Mr. Runner --
Good on you for writing, and wondering, and asking for some help.  You wrote to a bipolar website so you may have some hunches.  Time to get them checked out.  I wonder if you'd be comfortable letting your parents know what you're experiencing?   Most would want to know, and want to help, but I'll grant you, not all.  They might be able to help you find a good child/adolescent psychiatrist in your area -- these are the specialists that have the most options for treating your symptoms.  If that's not a good option, try asking the school nurse for some help finding such a specialist.  If your school doesn't have a nurse, try calling your (or your family's) primary care doctor, and ask her/him or even their nurse for some help: all you'd have to say is the sentence or two you wrote above and that you want some help with it. 

Now you may have figured out that there's possibly a "bipolar" angle to your symptoms, and you might be right, though I wouldn't start by assuming that.  If there's some truth to that point of view, just be aware that sometimes mental health professionals are a little slow figuring that angle out; they can know less than you sometimes, in a way.  So you should be vocal about why it occurred to you to think about "bipolar disorder", and what you've learned.  Good luck with that search.  There's a lot of help out there, I hope you'll be surprised to find.

Dr. Phelps

Published April, 2001