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What Parents Can Learn about Johnny Manziel’s Bipolar Disorder Revelation

Former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel has gone public with his recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder in hopes of explaining his behavior that helped him lose his job as an NFL quarterback.

“At the end of the day, I can’t help that my wires are a little bit differently crossed than yours,” Manziel said on Good Morning America. “I can’t help my mental makeup or the way that I was created.”

Manziel said he used alcohol has his method of self-medication and battled depression on his way to his “huge downfall.”

The former first-round draft pick told GMA that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year ago. Today, Manziel said he is currently sober and taking medication for bipolar disorder.

So how do you know if your child is battling bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition marked by extreme swings and mood and energy. It can affect the ability to function normally. The mood changes of bipolar disorder are more severe than normal ups and down.

Roxanne Boyd, LCSW, a family therapist for inpatient psychiatry at Cook Children’s, said people with bipolar disorder usually see multiple health care specialists before being diagnosed.

“For example, it can look at various times like depression, chemical dependency, even ADHD. In Johnny Manziel’s case, he was initially treated for chemical dependency,” Boyd said.

She added people with Borderline Personality Disorder are at high risk for chemical dependency, trying to manage their moods with alcohol, anxiety medication, like Xanax, or amphetamines.

Lisa Farmer, director of Psychiatric Services at Cook Children’s, said a differentiating character of bipolar disorder as opposed to unipolar depression is the presence of “clinical mania."

“Receiving a psychiatric evaluation is very important because of the risk of misdiagnosis. Medication management of depression, anxiety, and ADHD can be quite different from treating bipolar disorder. A psychiatric evaluation will help so the child is not treated with incorrect medication.”

Some use the acronym DIGFAST to refer to mania symptoms:


I-Indiscretion or high risk behaviors

G-Grandiose thinking

F-Flight of ideas or racing thoughts

A-Activity increase

S-decreased Sleep

T-talkativeness or hyperverbal, pressured speech

"These symptoms will cause an impairment in the ability to complete daily activities and the symptoms will affect multiple aspects - school, home and even the inability to be successful in extracurricular activities and peer relationships," said Kia Carter, M.D., co-medical director of Psychiatry at Cook Children's. "In bipolar, I think the key is that we are looking for a combination of impairing symptoms and not just focusing on the mood swing that children or adolescents may present with."

Dr. Carter said making your pediatrician aware of any concerning symptoms early on can help with early detection and treatment if necessary. If your child is having these symptoms and there is an impairment in function, please call 682-885-3917. 

More about Bipolar Disorder



Get to know more about Cook Children's Psychiatry

Our psychiatry department helps children, ages 2-17, and their families who are experiencing behavioral, neurodevelopmental and emotional challenges. Our staff is specifically trained to work with young patients and our psychiatrists are board certified in child and/or adolescent psychiatry.

Our treatment team works together to help re-establish the family unit as the most important influence in the child's life. That way, the child's care can be maintained at home whenever possible. Click here to learn more or to access any of our services, please contact our Intake Department by calling 682-885-3917.

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