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Bipolar disorder

Forty-Fold Increase in Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis in Children over Last Decade

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: bipolar disorder, misdiagnosis, health news

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(NewsTarget) The diagnosis of children with bipolar disorder increased 40-fold in the time period between 1994 and 2003, a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has revealed.

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a term applied to a condition in adults in which a person swings between severe manic highs -- characterized by high energy, little sleep, and frenetic activity -- and depressive lows, characterized by not only negative emotions such as sadness, anger and guilt, but also by disrupted sleep and eating patterns, irritability, chronic pain and even suicidal thoughts. Diagnosis of children with the disorder was very rare until the mid-1990s, when a number of psychiatrists began to promote the view that the symptoms of the disorder manifest differently in children.

According to this school of thought, bipolar children cycle between highs and lows much more rapidly than adults, and in them the disorder is characterized by frequent irritability and rage.

This change in perspective led the diagnosis of children to increase from 20,000 to 800,000 between 1993 and 2004, with the proportion of children diagnosed as bipolar jumping to 1,003 per 100,000, or more than 1 percent (the rate in adults, over the same period, nearly doubled to 1,069 per 100,000).

Skeptics, however, claim the numbers reveal a system of scientific fraud. "This rapid increase in diagnosis of bipolar disorder can only be explained by either a runaway epidemic infection or a medical fraud that seeks to label children as 'diseased' in order to sell them more drugs," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams.

According the new study, nine of 10 children diagnosed as bipolar are treated with at least one medication, and two-thirds of them are treated with two or more drugs. These drugs create profitable, reliable revenue streams for drug companies.

The data for the study were taken from annual government surveys of doctors.

The skyrocketing rate of childhood diagnosis has many people arguing over whether bipolar disorder was previously under diagnosed, or whether psychiatrists are now over diagnosing it.

"There's no question that there is misdiagnosis going on,'' said Gary Sachs, director of the bipolar and mood disorders program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "You can dispute whether it's under- or overdiagnosis.''

Among the conditions in children that may easily be misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome. Misdiagnosis, in turn, may lead to inappropriate use of drugs. "These children need better nutrition, not more drugs," said Mike Adams. "Furthermore, most of the drugs being used to treat these children have never been tested on children nor approved for use on children by the FDA."

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