Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kids and Mental Illness


I try to stay out of the whole Kiddy Bipolar Debate debate: none of the Shrink Rappers see children, so my knowledge of childhood psychiatric disorders is limited to what I saw during a 3 month inpatient rotation 20 years ago, what I read, and what I see of children in my personal life.  It's a messy topic.  

I brought it up today because the Wall Street Journal has an article that summarizes nicely all the issues, the issues with regard to diagnosis, the fear of over-treating, the problem with under-treating, the question of whether mood dysregulation in children should be a separate disorder.  Please see Shirley Wang's article The Long Battle to Rethink Mental Illness in Children

I'm glad they're leaning towards renaming bipolar disorder in children.  When you hear Bipolar Disorder, you think about a lifelong condition that requires medication forever.  Children have phases, behaviors occur in some arenas and not others.  Perhaps if a child's emotional life is intolerable to them, or their behaviors make it impossible to function in their worlds, it's worth the risks to administer medications.  But a kid throwing horrible tantrums, fighting, running around the room, does not necessarily evolve into the same category as an adult who has 3 episodes of depression, and 2 episodes of psychotic mania, during their lifetime.  Oh, and I'm the one who thinks we should Rethink all of the Bipolar Diagnosis, not just for kids. 

So Wang writes: 

At one of his group's first in-person meetings, the NIMH's Dr. Leibenluft, an expert on bipolar disorder in children, gave a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation with evidence for a potential new disease. She called it Severe Mood Dysregulation.
She described a decade of studying children with severe mood problems that don't fit neatly into current illnesses. Thus began a cerebral process to decide what these kids might be suffering from.
The two main options: Create a new disease, or create a variant to an existing disorder. The discussions ran for years.