Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Day, Another Disorder

I just read an interesting piece on CNN about Bipolar Disorder.  It was a Q&A session where a reader asked the expert, “Can a 9 or 10 year old be bipolar?”
In the article the author states that “Many studies now suggest that bipolar disorder, and in fact all mood disorders, are developing in younger and younger people”. This statement really got me thinking about the rise in these types of diagnoses.  Are these studies right?  Is bipolar disorder (and other types of disorders) really developing in younger and younger people?  Do we just have better tools to help identify these disorders earlier or are we analyzing behavior to the point that all the minutiae of the human personality are given a label?

I wonder about the consequences of attaching such heavy labels to children so young.  You know how people often live up to other people’s expectations of them, whether those expectations be high or low, good or bad? It makes me think that children, who might otherwise grow up to be in perfect mental health, might be adversely affected by being labeled “bipolar” or “ADHD”.

Of course recognizing the symptoms of serious disorders such as these is incredibly important. However, it would be interesting to see if healthcare professionals, particularly those in the field of mental health, feel that there is the potential to “over-diagnose” these types of disorders (especially in regards to children).

The expert in the article discusses how the non-specific nature of some of the symptoms and the fact that “lots of kids have a hard time controlling their moods and tempers” have led to the creation of yet another diagnosis called Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria. He asks his readers whether or not this is a good thing and I am doing the same. What are your thoughts? 

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