On Tuesday, November 30, NIMH posted a Science Update entitled “Most Children with Rapidly Shifting Moods Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder.” The update references an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on October 5, 2010.
Based on results from the study, researchers concluded that “Relatively few children with rapidly shifting moods and high energy have bipolar disorder, though such symptoms are commonly associated with the disorder. Instead, most of these children have other types of mental disorders.”
I first wrote about my concerns surrounding this issue in 2007 in a post on my Bipolar Blog entitled “Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed in Children?” Back then, Benedict Carey of The New York Times wrote a piece calling attention to the 40-fold increase in the diagnoses of bipolar disorder in children between 1994 and 2003, climbing from 20,000 cases in 1994 to 800,000 cases in 2003.
Unfortunately, the situation still exists. The good news is that there seems to be a groundswell of evidence to support the fact that bipolar disorder is over-diagnosed in children. Hopefully these and other studies will call attention to this undesirable situation and stem the tide.
Yes, children can have bipolar disorder. Diagnosing it and treating it early is important. But if something else is going on or some other condition other than bipolar disorder is at work, which it is more often than not, we need to be more precise in our diagnosis in order to provide the best treatment possible – whether that be medication or some other intervention.
Photo by Mike Baird of Morro Bay, CA. Available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.