April 9th’s New Yorker has a cracking article on the current controversy on whether it’s possible (or even valid) to diagnose bipolar disorder in children.
The article comes at a time when the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is being increasingly used for young children with behavioural difficulties.
It has been of particular interest after the tragic case of four-year-old Rebecca Riley, who died, according to the prosecutors, due to an overdose of psychiatric drugs prescribed after being diagnosed with the disorder.
Her parents, who have been accused of causing her death, have denied the charges.
The case is continuing but it has raised a number of questions about whether it is possible to diagnose the condition in children, or whether it even appears so early in life.
The New Yorker piece traces the popularity of the diagnosis to a book called The Bipolar Child, where psychiatrist Demitri Papolos and his wife included a screening questionnaire so parents can ‘diagnose’ their children.
Notably, there are currently no widely accepted diagnostic criteria, and a number of clinicians quoted in the article criticise the book for including vague or otherwise normal experiences (such as ‘irritability’ or ‘boredom’) as part of the diagnosis.
Unfortunately, the article isn’t available in the New Yorker website, but it was written by Dr Jerome Groopman who usually posts all his articles for the magazine online, so hopefully it should appear there shortly.
Otherwise, catch it in the shops or down your local library.