Bipolar disorders are being diagnosed in one percent of children and teens, a 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003, reports the New York Times.
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.
Most children diagnosed with bipolar disorders go on to develop symptoms of depression, but not mania, the researchers found. Perhaps these kids are depressed but not bipolar.