Q: My brother is fourteen going on fifteen, he was recently diagnoused as bipolar. I don’t believe he is. Ever since my mom started dating my step dad six years ago he has changed. Our dad died when he was only two. Our stepdad tries to force his childhood life style on us but since us three girls were old enough to know what we needed to know it didn’t work on us. But my brother thought he had to follow the rules. When he was only seven or eight he got frustrated on his homework and started to cry. My step dad yelled and screamed at him telling him not to cry boys don’t cry. My mom would never do anything, I would yell but then I just got yelled at. My brother was always forced to stay in sports even if he didn’t like it. I feel with all this pressure that was and still is being put on him he is acting out and not bipolar.

A: Your brother is 14. This is often a time of confusion and rebellion. It could be that his normal efforts to separate from his parents and to find his own identify are being labelled by your parents as an illness. On the other hand, it could be that the way he has been treated has left him feeling helpless and worthless and he has become seriously depressed. If the doctor was not told about the pressures your brother is under, he or she might interpret his behaviors as symptoms of mental illness. It’s important that the doctor get the whole picture if he or she is to make an accurate diagnosis. Encourage your brother to talk honestly with his doctor. Medications can be very helpful but only if they are being used to treat a real illness. Unnecessary medication is never a good idea.
I wish you both well.
Dr. Marie