THERE’S a children’s picture book in the US called Brandon and the Bipolar Bear. Brandon and his bear sometimes fly into unprovoked rages. Sometimes they’re silly and overexcited. A nice doctor tells them they are ill, and gives them medicine that makes them feel much better.
The thing is, if Brandon were a real child, he would have just been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Also known as manic depression, this serious condition, involving dramatic mood swings, is increasingly being recorded in American children. And a vast number of them are being medicated for it.
The problem is, this apparent epidemic isn’t real. “Bipolar emerges from late adolescence,” says Ian Goodyer, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge who studies child and adolescent depression. “It is very, very unlikely indeed that you’ll find it in children under 7 years.”