There is a perception that ADHD is an over diagnosed condition in children. There have been studies over the years that have challenged that perception, even suggesting that ADHD is under diagnosed. At least one study that I know of reports that 75 % of the prison population meets criteria of ADHD. I would venture to believe that many in prison have never been properly identified or treated. I can’t help but wonder whether we could have changed the course of events for these prisoners had they been properly diagnosed and treated as children before they dropped out of school and turned to crime believing they were dumb and defective with few options.
One of the problems in diagnosing children is that sometimes ADHD is confused with bipolar disorder. There is a lot of overlap between these two brain diseases. There is an interesting study in the Journal of Affective Diseases this month that tries to determine the differences between these two diseases and the accuracy of The CBCL pediatric bipolar profile as a diagnostic measure. It found that children with bipolar disorder were verbally aggressive and argumentative, who respond with anger when frustrated. Children diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD exhibited significant levels of impulsive behavior and attention problems, but youngsters with bipolar disorder also exhibited significant levels of aggressive behavior and dysphoric mood. Finally, the study found that the CBCL pediatric bipolar disorder profile did not accurately identify youngsters who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
So, although the news often reports that ADHD has sky rocketed in frequency in recent years, I suspect that some of those cases may very well be undiagnosed bipolar disorder. It is important to know the difference and to be aware that although certain symptoms of bipolar disorder may very well get better with some types of ADHD medications other symptoms can surely get worse. This is why it is so very important that a specialist in the field who daily works with these two types of conditions be the one to diagnose and treat your child. It can make all the difference in the world in the success of your child’s future.