Crazy mixed-up adults

Yesterday’s problem kids suffer from oppositional defiant disorder; jittery boys have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But when it comes to diagnosing children with psychiatric disorders, it’s not clear adults know what they’re talking about. From the New York Times:

Children can develop so fast that what looks like attention deficit disorder in the fall may look like anxiety or nothing at all in the summer. And the field is fiercely divided over some fundamental questions, most notably about bipolar disorder, a disease classically defined by moods that zigzag between periods of exuberance or increased energy and despair. Some experts say that bipolar disorder is being overdiagnosed, but others say it is too often missed.

Parents will accept a diagnosis they think is wrong if it gets their kid special help at school.

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  1. My nephew is bipolar, among other things (asperger’s, epileptic, and has mild cerebral palsy). All from the same birth-related brain injury.

    Unfortunately, the public schools weren’t very helpful (his mom was only using them as an addition to homeschool anyway). Oh, they wanted him to sign up for services (so they’d get the funding for him). But since he already qualified as disabled because of the CP (which is in fact his mildest problem), they didn’t care to figure out what learning-related problems he had.

    Some people think that the mania of bipolar disorder is like an intense happy mood or an especially energetic kid hyped up on sugar. Mania is associated with inappropriate risk taking behavior and hypersexuality, among other things. A manic person may be giddy one moment and in raging anger the next (and a physical danger to themselves and others). And that’s before getting to the swings from manic to depressive. Typically, the mania is a bigger concern and harder to medicate (and regulate) than the depression.