Children are being over-diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other psychological disorder in our country. I do not think that this is always the doctors faults. I think that parents are also anxious about why their child might be acting out. As good parents, they demand answers. Doctors want to be able to answer their patient concerns, and it is easy to categorize children under these titles: bi-polar, ADHD, and autism. Doctors can then prescribe a pill just like they would for any disease. The parents walk away feeling as though they have fixed the problem.
In my case a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, whether accurate or not , actually helped my son. I was put in the unfortunate situation of having to hospitalize my son when he was very young. His risk-taking behavior associated with autism had become too dangerous for a single parent to control. He was running from the house, attacking his caretakers, and regularly would not sleep for days on end. I was at the point that I could no longer keep him safe in his home. My doctors wouldn’t listen, suggesting that I give him Benadryl to get him to sleep. I could get no services from the school, and had very few resources.
During one of our trips to the behavioral hospital, it was suggested that children with bipolar disorder receive more social services and respite care than those with “just autism.” Now, I knew a thing or two about bi-polar. I had researched everything under the son when I was trying to get any diagnosis for his problems. I reviewed the symptoms of bi-polar with the hospital, and ended up convincing them that he did have it as well.
New doors opened for us, new doctors, new case workers, respite care, and better medicines. I know I manipulated the system, and some part of me feels badly for having done it. My son’s medical jacket will forever say, “bipolar disorder, mild to moderate.” He does have the symptoms, but these can also be attributed to autism. He is unable to speak, so the doctors have admitted that they will never be able to diagnose him with 100% certainty.
I think that the moral of my story is, yes, it is over-diagnosed. Doctors do jump the gun in order to make parents happy and give them a concrete solution. Parents pressure doctors for answers. Both sides are equally to blame. However, we as parents will always know our children best, and we don’t have to just accept what our doctors tell us. We just need to do everything we can to make our children happy and safe no matter what the diagnosis.