Diagnoses of bipolar disorder in under 20s increase 40-fold in 9 years

This is alarming: the New York Times has an article about a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which shows that the number of under 20s diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased 40-fold (from 25 to 1003 per 100,000) between 1994 and 2003:

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. Until relatively recently, it was thought to emerge almost exclusively in adulthood. But in the 1990s, psychiatrists began looking more closely for symptoms in younger patients.

Some experts say greater awareness, reflected in the increasing diagnoses, is letting youngsters with the disorder obtain the treatment they need.

Other experts say bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed. The term, the critics say, has become a catchall applied to almost any explosive, aggressive child.

After children are classified, the experts add, they are treated with powerful psychiatric drugs that have few proven benefits in children and potentially serious side effects like rapid weight gain.

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5 thoughts on “Diagnoses of bipolar disorder in under 20s increase 40-fold in 9 years

  1. Hmmm. What stupid correlation can we make to the last 20 years of modern life and this upswing.
    Well, about 20 years ago bottled water became much more popular. Bottled water causes bipolar disorder!
    But seriously, this sounds stupid. You shouldn’t be treating kids under about 16 or 17 for bipolar disorder. This idea of diagnosing 5, 6, and 7 year olds as bipolar is offensive, and the psychiatrists doing it should be reported to the BPQA.

  2. I share the sentiment that Bipolar Disorder may have become over diagnosed in the fashion of say, DID in the mid-80’s, and ADHD every other five years for the last twenty. As a bipolar who was finally diagnosed and treated at the age of 27, I reckon my case and others like mine contributed to the present crisis in health insurance premiums amd mental health parity. The irony is that at the onset of my first floridly manic episode, I was chemically restrained with Thorazine, and sent home. This was in 1980, when Lithium, a simple natural element and the gold standard for bipolar treatment, had been in use for over 20 years. (See Mo”s recent post regarding chemically induced lobotomies). Just for a little balance, please see: http://www.cabf.org/

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