Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bipolar or Catchall Diagnosis?

There is a flurry on the web and an article in every major city paper this morning about the increase in bipolar diagnoses in youth and whether children are being properly diagnosed. The articles all reference a new study that was released in September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. The study is the most comprehensive study on bipolar disorder to date.

The researchers looked at records of patient visits from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey that was conducted from 1999-2003 for 962 patients with a bipolar diagnosis. An abstract from the journal can be seen here. To get the full PDF of the scholarly article, you have to fork up $15.

The big finding is that there has been 40-fold increase in children being treated for the condition in the United States between 1994 and 2003, when numbers jumped from 20,000 to 800,000. Most experts agree that the number of children with the condition is not actually increasing, but rather it is being noticed more often. Many other experts assert that it is over diagnosed. They say that bipolar disorder has become a catchall for explosive or aggressive child.

Other interesting highlights from the research include:

- Most youth (19 and under) bipolar disorder doctor visits were males, while most adult bipolar visits were females

- Youth were more likely than adults to get a combination diagnosis of bipolar-ADHD

- Most youth (90%) were prescribed psychotropic medication during their visits

More information:
US News and World report article
New York Times article
Los Angeles Times article


Ben said...

4 or 5 years from now, the headlines will read:

Diagnoses of Dystonia & Dyskinesia Jump 4,000%,
Scientists Baffled by Epidemic of Movement Disorders

Ben Hansen
Traverse City, Michigan
Institute for Nearly Genuine Research

TushBlogger said...

I like William Saletan's list of theories (from Slate.com):

1) Thank God we discovered the juvenile bipolar epidemic.

2) The juvenile bipolar epidemic is a fraud perpetrated by drug companies to make money by stoning our kids.

3) They're preying on parents who will latch onto any diagnosis that relieves them of responsibility.

4) It's an insurance ruse.

5) Most "bipolar" kids don't get the same symptoms as adults.

6) Juvenile bipolar wasn't invented until the 1990s.

7) Ah, for the good old days, when we called these kids brats, bullies, and truants.

8) The bipolar epidemic may be bogus, but the old days were worse.