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April 9, 2007

Childhood Bipolar Disorder Controversy

The New Yorker magazine has an interesting article on the current controversy on whether it's possible (or even valid) to diagnose bipolar disorder in children. In the article the journalist Jerome Groopman talks to many experts at the National Institute of Mental Health and elsewhere and comes up with some interesting information. We encourage you to read the entire article.

The article notes that at a

N.I.M.H. meeting, the psychiatrists argued about whether bipolar disorder actually existed in children and whether an accurate diagnosis could be made. Meanwhile, articles inspired by the Papoloses' book "The Bipolar Child" began cropping up in the media. Mentions Time magazine's 2002 cover story. The number of children under 13 who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased 600% in the past 10 years. Many doctors fear that the media has exaggerated its prevalence in children. The situation has similarities to the overdiagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) in children. The consequences of a misdiagnosis of bipolar can be dire.

Dr. ”Steven Hyman has it right, in our opinion, when he states at the end of the article that “ It’s really important that we define the kids with bipolar disorder and treat them, but it’s also important that we not begin to diagnose kids with excess exuberance or moodiness as having the disease. We have to realize that we are risking treating children who could turn into obese diabetics with involuntary movements. There is something very real about the kids with devastating and disruptive symptoms, but the question is still the boundaries. You can do more harm than good if you treat the wrong kid.”

Read the article here: What’s Normal? - The difficulty of diagnosing bipolar disorder in children.

Some commentary on the story is available at Mind Hacks blog: New Yorker on child bipolar controversy


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