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.”
Dr. Candida Fink, MD is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in several areas including mood and anxiety disorders and dual diagnoses of developmental disabilities and mental illness. She treats children, teens, and young adults with a range of concerns including ADHD, anxiety disorders, OCD, autism, pediatric mood disorders, and mental health issues in school settings. Dr. Fink has co-authored two books – The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child (with Judith Lederman, Simon and Schuster, 2003) and Bipolar Disorder for Dummies (with Joe Kraynak, John Wiley & Sons, 2005, third edition 2015). She has been featured nationally and locally in broadcast, print, and online media coverage and is a frequent speaker on mental health topics for community and school-based audiences.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
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.