Professor James Potash discusses the dramatic increase in the rates of diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder, which has risen forty-fold in recent years.
So about half the people with bipolar [disorder] 1 have the illness before age 21, roughly. Now the issue of childhood onset is a controversial one because the diagnosis of bipolar disorder has increased; if you look at outpatient records in the United States, the diagnosis has increased an amazing forty-fold over the last decade or two. That’s a gigantic increase, and presumably a lot of that has to do with increased awareness and recognition of the illness. Another part of it probably has to do with widening diagnostic boundaries; there are a lot of people being called bipolar disorder who don’t meet what I would consider the classic definition.