During my teaching career I noticed the number of students who were seeing mental health professionals stayed relatively the same over the years, however the types of diagnoses changed.
In recent years there has been a gradual increase in diagnosing bipolar disorder in children. Yet, many prominent mental health professionals point out children with the diagnosis of bipolar do not show the same serious symptoms as an adult with the same diagnosis.
A clinical psychologist friend told me, “Unfortunately, diagnoses move in and out of popularity often based on non-scientific reasons.” She too had become alarmed at the increasing number of children receiving this diagnosis. She further explained that few, if any of her colleagues, assigned bipolar disorder to a child because there are other diagnoses which are more accurate and appropriate for children.
This psychologist also said when children are referred to her with bipolar disorder she is suspicious of the accuracy of the diagnosis and therefore recommends a full scale evaluation. None of her evaluations (in 20+ years) or those of her colleagues have ever found a child to meet the standard criteria for bipolar disorder.
But do not be disillusioned. The trend of assigning bipolar to young children may be reversing. Many mental health professionals are not succumbing to popular influence but are holding to a stricter scientific standard when evaluating and diagnosing children.
In the meantime, the recent Newsweek article below reports hundreds of thousands of children have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at times with tragic results. This is an important article to read if you know of a young person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Stuart L. Kaplan, M.D. states in his article, “I believe, to the contrary, that there is no scientific evidence to support the belief that bipolar disorder surfaces in childhood. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case”.
Dr. Kaplan is a child psychiatrist and a clinical professor of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine. Read more of the Newsweek article here: http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/19/mommy-am-i-really-bipolar.html