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Should we request a psych eval?

Started by jgaff78, Dec 30, 2009, 11:02:45 AM

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I am just wondering if we should request a psychiatric evaluation for BM and how we would do that if we wanted to. BM has custody of SD and lives 1000 miles away. We know that BM's BM (not who she was raised by) had a psychiatric problem and was institutionalized because of it. We believe the issue is with a bipolar disorder, but don't know for sure because we only know information from stories that were told to my husband while he was married to BM. Obviously BM is not just going to hand over personal info about her or her mother's mental health, so if we have concerns we would need to have her tested and have things court ordered.

I know that people who have relatives with bipolar disorder have a stronger likelihood of being diagnosed with the disorder and BM tends to meet some of the symptoms of the disorder. I never know what to expect when I speak to her. Sometimes she will be extremely pleasant and very cooperative and the next she will be ranting about everything and refusing to cooperate at all. She is very moody and changes her mind about things constantly. I can't really describe the issue, but I have worked with people with mental disorders before and I just get that "vibe" from her behaviors.

I have been keeping an eye on SD to see if she has any of the same types of symptoms and working to teach her to control her moods. She tends to get extremely upset over little things so we have been working to teach her how to keep things in perspective and not over react or fly off the handle. I'm just worried that she may develop the disorder in time and it would be helpful to know early on if she has any signs of the disorder.

We are also wanting to know if BM has the disorder or has any other psychiatric issues in case it is relevant to custody issues. If she is not stable, we will file for a custody change so SD can live with us unless BM gets treatment. I don't think BM realizes that she has any issues. Basically I think a court ordered psychiatric evaluation may point out the issues to BM and possibly help her to get treatment that would help her be a better mother to SD and be less argumentative with us. Is it possible to get a court ordered evaluation when you are not in the middle of a custody battle?

Kitty C.

One thing to always keep in mind about mental illnesses.........it is a chemical imbalance in the brain and if your SD is susceptible to it because of heredity, trying to teach her how to control her moods will not help.  If you see the signs (and you have legal custody to do so), make an appt. for her to see a pediatric psychiatrist, someone who specializes in childhood mental illness.  Do not try an adult psychiatrist, because children's issues and brains are vastly different than adults.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......


We have debated taking her to see a counselor for some time now. We want her to have someone to talk to and someone who is qualified to spot symptoms and make referrals to a psychiatrist if needed, but it is difficult when she is only with us for a short period of time. By the time she would get comfortable with someone, she would be returning to BM's home and the process would have to start all over again at the next visit.

We can't force BM to take her to a counselor and we wouldn't have much luck if we asked. As it is BM has refused to get SD a flu shot because she claims she can't get her to the doctor's office due to her work schedule and not having a car. If she won't make one appointment for a simple flu shot, I know she won't take SD to a counselor on a regular basis. It's just very frustrating.

As far as teaching her to control her moods, I figure it can't hurt. If the mood swings BM has are not due to a mental illness, then at least we can have an impact on SD and show her that BM's behavior is not normal or appropriate.


Teaching a child coping tools/skills is never a waste of time. There are times it is less effective, but it is not a waste of time. Chemical imbalance or not, impulse control tools are valuable. SS was diagnosed ADHD. He had other issues which were not addressed and he "used" the diagnosis to excuse his bad behavior. He had the ability to control himself, because he did so quite well at our home, but failed to do so at his mother's home.

On another note, in order to get BM ordered to do a psych eval, you must either have an open ongoing court case or have sufficient change of circumstances in the life of the child or BM to overcome the threshold a court will impose PRIOR to letting a new motion be entertained. If you aren't in the middle of something already and you can't PROVE there is a change in circumstances you will not get the order you are inquiring about.
A true soldier fights, not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves whats behind him...dear parents, please remember not to continue to fight because you hate your ex, but because you love your children.

Kitty C.

I totally agree that teaching coping skills for impulse control can be valuable, but I'm talking specifically about BP, mainly the depression part of it.  Coping skills really don't come into play with depression.  But you're right about about the mood swings, jgaff............it's always possible that it could be hormonal, too.  In that case, the time to be watching SD closely will be just prior to and into puberty, when her hormones start doing the yo-yo thing.  If the swings are too great, it can sometimes, sometimes be alleviated by simply taking a low dose birth control.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......


I've been very concerned about how BM's behavior influences SD since the moment I met the woman. She just seems emotionally unstable, literally. I really never know what to expect from her and I have always worried that SD would pick up those behavioral cues and think they are "normal". So I try my best to provide a good example for her and to explain to her why some of the behaviors she has are not acceptable or useful to her. I've taught her to stop crying when she is getting extremely upset over something very trivial. I make sure that we talk about the issue and explain that crying and being upset will not help the situation but talking about what is bothering her or taking action to fix the issue will. I don't think she would ever have the opportunity to learn that from BM.

BM plays the victim a lot. She claims that my husband was mean to her when they were married, but I have been with him for 5 years now and have not seen any indication that he is anything other than a thoughtful, loving man. BM also has had several boyfriends in the last 5 years that she claimed were mean to her, but she only said this after they broke up with her. She complains constantly that she doesn't have enough money or that everything we do is designed to inconvenience her. She also claims to have rheumatoid arthritis so bad that she cannot fly or work a regular job or anything, but her actions don't really support that claim. It just seems that she tries to find anything to generate sympathy and attention for herself. For a while I think she was also using SD to get attention because SD would supposedly have symptoms of asthma when she was with BM but the symptoms would magically disappear when she came to see us. BM was taking SD to the doctor a lot and putting her on different meds and had her using a nebulizer daily until we found out and put a stop to it. SD has not had any respiratory issues since.

It just seems like BM has a lot of emotional issues that need fixed in order for her to be a proper, stable mother to SD. But we are not in the middle of a custody battle and have been hesitant to initiate a battle because we are afraid of the effects it will have on SD. We already know BM talks badly about us in front of SD, I can't imagine what she would do or say if we file for a change of custody. I just wish there was a way to get the emotional issues addressed before (or instead of) filing for custody modification.

Kitty C.

Oh, you have NO idea how familiar that story sounds to so many here!   Too many here have BT, DT....even DH and I, to a degree.  Problem is, unless she becomes a threat to SD's physical and emotional wellbeing (and you have the documentation to prove it), there's really nothing you can do about it.  About the only thing you can do while SD is with her is to make sure SD knows how and when to dial 911 if she feels threatened.  Or if SD were to ever call you (or you have a suspicion of something going on, illegal or otherwise that you feel is a physical threat to SD), then call local law enforcement and ask for a welfare check of the residence.  They will go to the home to check and if they feel SD is in imminent danger, they will remove SD from the premises. 

Unfortunately, something practically has to happen in order for anything to change.  Only then would you be able to open the issue up in family court.  What you're currently doing......showing and teaching by example and teaching her to react differently........is about all you can do for the time being, and possibly for years. 

As SD gets older, either she will show signs of increased mental instability (in that case, you would be justified in having her professionally evaluated) or she will learn that only BM is the only who acts that way.  My SS will be 16 next month and has learned over the years that his BM's 'quirks' are not normal behavior compared to others and now sees it for what it is.........in his words 'Mom is just weird'.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......


Regarding "We are also wanting to know if BM has the disorder or has any other psychiatric issues in case it is relevant to custody issues. If she is not stable, we will file for a custody change so SD can live with us unless BM gets treatment"  ----- absolutely not the way it works in family court.  You don't get to go into court and say  biologicalmay have  mental illness therefore we want her tested or want custody till she gets help.    Only if Mom displays signs that actually cause problems or put child in actual harms way would this ever be an issue.  You can continue to teach the child coping mechanisms, but you also have to realize your coping mechanisms are not the only way to deal.  Dramatic hormonal teenage females can develop into "normal" adult females.


I was not implying that we would go into court and demand that she seek treatment. If we ever could verify that she had some type of instability, we could deal directly with her to give her the option of getting treatment or facing a custody battle. I would like to think that she is sane enough to realize that getting treatment for emotional instability is the best option for her and her daughter. But if she can't see that, then we would need to go ahead and file for custody modification.

I am not necessarily teaching SD my coping mechanisms. I am teaching her to use coping skills I have learned in my college courses as I work toward becoming a social worker. I have also worked with developmentally disabled individuals and I use a lot of the techniques I learned in that field to help SD learn that she can manage her emotions without losing control. SD is not a hormonal teenager, she is only 8, and her mother is far from being a teen. An adult woman should not behave the way this woman does, it simply isn't "normal".

BM complains often that SD is "out of control." But yet when she calls to complain about SD's behavior, it is BM who is obviously out of control. She is usually screaming at SD and telling my husband it is his fault that SD is not behaving the way she wants her to. BM's mood dictates how she reacts to SD's behavior and if BM is having a major mood swing, then she flies off the handle when SD misbehaves and the situation escalates until SD is reflecting BM's insanity. How can SD be expected to control her behavior when BM is clearly not in control herself?

It just really stinks that it is so difficult to get a parent's capabilities tested. I would hate to think that SD would have to become physically endangered before anything would be done to put her mother in check. I am sure there is emotional harm being done, but that is so difficult to prove in court without a psychiatric evaluation and we can't get that until something happens to make the court order it. It just feels like a no-win situation.