Childhood Bipolar Disorder: A Disturbing Trend

Perhaps some of my readers have heard about the recent 40 fold increase in childhood bipolar disorder that our nation has experienced. I’m not sure you are aware how this translates statistically. I just came across an alarming figure in a CNN story, Growing up bipolar: ‘Nobody was on my side’, that maybe you should have a look at.

A 2007 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that the number of office visits resulting in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for those under 19 was 1,003 per 100,000 people in 2002-03 in the United States. This was a dramatic uptick from 25 per 100,000 people in 1994-95.

Now tell me, what changed so much in less than 10 years that bipolar disorder must skyrocket among the juvenile set. From 25 in 100,000 to 1,003 in 100,000 is quite some leap. I feel that the public should be reacting with outrage to this sort of thing.

What is the solution to this dilemma?

That partly [is] why some psychiatrists have proposed a new diagnosis for such kids for the forthcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychiatry. It’s called Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria, and it would include young children who have recurrent temper outbursts to common stressors.

I have some problems, to say the least, with this approach. First, you begin by labeling kids that would have been labeled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder bipolar disorder sufferers. Oops. Childhood bipolar disorder booms. Second, you come up with a third disorder, TDD. This is not going to bring the childhood mental illness rate down one iota. If anything it is going to further exasperate any present mental health crisis we happen to be in. What next? Developing a psychiatric drug and treatment for TDD, of course. Now you have 3 disorders where before you had 2. Quite some improvement, wouldn’t you say.

The news story itself shares the experience of a couple of parents, a psychiatrist who is pills, pills, pills, and a psychiatrist who believes dispensing drugs should be combined with talk therapy.

[Dr. Rakeesh] Jain agreed that some patients who do well can go for stretches without medication, but he has never been able to completely remove a bipolar patient from drugs and say, “you’re cured.” Bipolar disorder should be viewed as a chronic illness like hypertension or diabetes, which require lifelong management, he said.

Dr. Jain is the psychiatrist relying most heavily on psychiatric drugs.

I have met a number of ex-patients who have gotten over the bipolar disorder label, who are off psychiatric drugs completely, and who are doing quite well. Perhaps Dr. Jain would benefit from interacting with such people.

What about 25 in 100,000 versus 1,003 in 100,000 do you think he doesn’t understand!?