This is alarming: the New York Times has an article about a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which shows that the number of under 20s diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased 40-fold (from 25 to 1003 per 100,000) between 1994 and 2003:

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. Until relatively recently, it was thought to emerge almost exclusively in adulthood. But in the 1990s, psychiatrists began looking more closely for symptoms in younger patients.

Some experts say greater awareness, reflected in the increasing diagnoses, is letting youngsters with the disorder obtain the treatment they need.

Other experts say bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed. The term, the critics say, has become a catchall applied to almost any explosive, aggressive child.

After children are classified, the experts add, they are treated with powerful psychiatric drugs that have few proven benefits in children and potentially serious side effects like rapid weight gain.



  1. #1 markH
    September 4, 2007

    Hmmm. What stupid correlation can we make to the last 20 years of modern life and this upswing.

    Well, about 20 years ago bottled water became much more popular. Bottled water causes bipolar disorder!

    But seriously, this sounds stupid. You shouldn’t be treating kids under about 16 or 17 for bipolar disorder. This idea of diagnosing 5, 6, and 7 year olds as bipolar is offensive, and the psychiatrists doing it should be reported to the BPQA.

  2. #2 Mo
    September 4, 2007

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Have you seen the comments on this post?

  3. #3 Ben Hansen
    September 4, 2007

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

    Diagnoses of Dystonia & Dyskinesia Jump 4,000%,

    Scientists Baffled by Epidemic of Movement Disorders

  4. #4 John McKay
    September 4, 2007

    This means everyone under twenty will be bipolar in ten years and unable to pay for my social security.

  5. #5 Jim
    March 12, 2008

    I share the sentiment that Bipolar Disorder may have become over diagnosed in the fashion of say, DID in the mid-80’s, and ADHD every other five years for the last twenty. As a bipolar who was finally diagnosed and treated at the age of 27, I reckon my case and others like mine contributed to the present crisis in health insurance premiums amd mental health parity. The irony is that at the onset of my first floridly manic episode, I was chemically restrained with Thorazine, and sent home. This was in 1980, when Lithium, a simple natural element and the gold standard for bipolar treatment, had been in use for over 20 years. (See Mo”s recent post regarding chemically induced lobotomies). Just for a little balance, please see:

  6. #6 Andy
    March 7, 2011

    I am bipolar. I also run my own business and attend college. I was diagnosed at 13, now I’m 36, and it was not a misdiagnoses. I am definitely bipolar. I lived unmediated for twenty years and it was truly tragic. I was a bipolar child (bipolar children are often high energy, also known as ADHD)and my scruff rises a little when I hear people talking about how it was so misdiagnosed. Everything is a little misdiagnosed at some point or another, but the trend doesn’t last more than a decade or so. That does not rule out the gaggles of people who really are bipolar, and how they need treatment so very badly. Don’t diminish my disorder, it is authentic and it envelopes every fiber of my being.

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