The term “bipolar disorder” has only been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association since the DSM III version in 1980. While early research concluded little more than the fact that there are indeed significant differences between mania and depression, more recent bipolar research characterizes the condition in terms of the polarization of those two particular states.
Unfortunately, the emphasis on this main fact has been dwindling, both amongst the American populace and as well as many mental health professionals, failing to acknowledge that this condition is characterized by such polarization and extremes. In other words, it has too frequently become a convenient label, even when it is inaccurate.
This problem is evidenced by the fact that research and statistics often contradict themselves. Research shows two main points: the prevalence of bipolar disorder, and the risk factors which contribute to it.
On the first point, the most current research shows that the prevalence of bipolar disorder is only 1%, but with both contributing risk factors and considering the entire scope of all forms of bipolar disorders, the range is closer to approximately 4.5%. On the second point, research states heredity or genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and drug abuse, to be this condition’s causal or contributing factors.
While this extensive and relatively conclusive research makes sense, the statistics of bipolar conditions in the American public do not. For example, in one particular state a recent study has shown that more than 30,000 of its adult population has been diagnosed as being bipolar.
When you take into consideration that this study only reflects adults, and only reflects those who have received this diagnosis, it is reasonable to conclude that it is unlikely that such a disproportionately-large segment of one state’s population actually has this condition.
The bottom line is that too many are too quick to use the label “bipolar,” resulting in many people being inaccurately diagnosed. This point is also evidenced by the fact that while some research has concluded that symptomatic bipolar conditions do not appear until adolescence, studies reveal that children are being diagnosed with this condition based on adult diagnostic criteria.
This form of “diagnosis” currently runs the range from urging parents who have no qualifications to “assess their child’s symptoms,” to incompetent mental health practitioners attempting to apply adult-range symptom assessment to children. As a result, one recent study has stated that approximately 800,000 children have been given this diagnosis.
Children And Psychotropic Medicine
And, as one might logically conclude, one result of this is that many children are being given psychotropic medication which is not only inappropriate but potentially dangerous, as there has not yet been enough research to show its effects on children.
The main point that should be kept in mind when there are such discrepancies between research into a specific condition and statistics of its prevalence in the American population is that mental health practitioners should rely a little more heavily on the facts of conclusive research and far less on hastily jumping on the bandwagon of America’s current “pop trend” in mental illnesses.