My Dearest Dr Laura,
I am so happy you have brought up the subject of over diagnosing bipolar disorder in children. I am not a mental health or child expert in any way, but I did coach youth sports for 20 years and volunteered in my son's schools and still work with teachers and children involved with the Science Olympiad. Here are my unscientific and non-expert observations:
1. Many parents expect their children to be fashion accessories similar to a purse.
2. Many parents wish to medicate (drug) their children rather than work to instill discipline and create a safe structured environment that promotes growth.
3. Schools get much more money for a "disabled" student than they do for "non-disabled" students. If they can list Johnny as having a disorder that can mean an extra $10,000.
4. Teachers need to have good behavior from students. Since students are not taught this at home, they turn to zombie drugs like Ritalin.
5. This applies to adults as well as children. People expect to be happy, perky, warm fuzzy 100% of the time. If they are not, then there is something wrong. There is something wrong with you if you get angry. These things all used to be part of normal life and you dealt with them.
My mother really is bipolar and my life growing up was Hell on Earth. When she would take her meds, life improved to being just bad. Then she would think she was fine and the meds would go in the trash and we were back in Hell. I really believe this is a real disorder and children can have it, but I believe many are being diagnosed for one or all of the 5 above reasons. I also believe this prevents people like my mother from getting the help they really need.
Thanks again Dr Laura.