From a teen in New Zealand: I’ve noticed that I have every symptom of bipolar disorder, I have spent time researching it and have found that everything about it is really similar to me. I want to go to a doctor or get help somewhere, or someone to just understand what I’m going through or be able to explain it to me (even if I’m not bipolar at all) but when I’ve tried talking about it to my parents, they told me I’m just a hormonal teenager, that it’s all completely normal.

It confuses me that they think it’s normal, as I live with them they have seen my mood changes, and it affects the whole household. What they said has made me worried that I’m just overreacting, or looking for attention.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety a few years ago, and my anxiety makes it really hard for me to ask for help by myself. I’m worried that if I talk to a doctor about it, they will laugh in my face like my parents did, and tell me I’m just looking for attention. I do know it’s unlikely a doctor will do that to me, but it’s still stopping me from going. I’m not sure where to go from here.

A: Your parents are correct that many teens have hormonal mood swings that can look like bipolar disorder. But that doesn’t mean that something more serious isn’t going on. An evaluation by a mental health professional is needed to sort it out.

I’m concerned that you mention that you were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but you don’t mention being treated for it. I hope you have worked with a counselor to learn coping skills to help you manage the anxiety. That would go a long way toward helping you settle down if your issue is merely normal teen stuff.

The person who diagnosed you in the first place would be a place to start to get answers now. That doctor has seen you before so will be able to determine if anything has changed. (And no, therapists do not laugh at or dismiss anyone’s pain.) You might try asking your parents if you could see that doctor for a follow up visit — just to make sure you are doing okay. That may be easier for them to consider than another diagnosis.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie