Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Do Kids Get Bipolar Disorder?; July / August 2012; Scientific American Mind; by HAL ARKOWITZ AND SCOTT O. LILIENFELD; 2 Page(s)
Imagine an eight-year-old boy
whom we will call Eric. He is irritable
and talks incessantly.
Unable to sit still and concentrate,
he does poorly at school.
Nevertheless, he claims to be
one of the smartest kids in the
world and blames his poor academic
performance on his "horrible"
teachers. There are periods
when his mood changes
abruptly from euphoria to depression
and then swings back
again. Eric's symptoms qualify
him for a diagnosis of bipolar
disorder, which is characterized
by episodes of full-blown mania
or a less severe form called
hypomania. These moods usually
alternate with periods of
depression [see box on opposite
Until about 1980 most
mental health professionals believed
that bipolar disorder did
not occur in children. Although
a few still hold this view, the
general opinion of the psychiatric
community has drastically
shifted over the past 30 years, a
period in which diagnoses of
the disorder in kids have skyrocketed.
In a study published
in 2007 psychiatrist Carmen Moreno,
then at Gregorio Marañén University
General Hospital in Madrid, and her
colleagues found a 40-fold increase between
1994 and 2003 in the number of
visits to a psychiatrist in which a patient
younger than 19 was given this diagnosis.
By 2003, the researchers reported,
the number of office visits resulting in a
bipolar diagnosis in these youths had
risen from 25 per 100,000 people to
1,003 per 100,000 people, a rate almost
as high as that for adults.