Monday, June 25, 2007

The blues of the younger years

I read an article in the Star-Ledger today about some controversy over early diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It was not a great article, lacking the depth I would have liked but it was decently interesting. It brought up a case of this little girl who was killed by an overdose of bipolar medication, and raised the question of whether the psychiatrist who first brought up the idea of little kids having bipolar disorder was morally responsible for this. On the face of it, I would have to say no, since the parents gave their little girl an overdose, ignoring the recommended guidelines. If the psychiatrist made vague statements that could have been interpreted as encouraging above-recommended medication, maybe he's responsible, otherwise, no. But the broader question is whether bipolar disorder starts with adults or with kids. I'm not sure if my problems are exactly bipolar disorder, they do involve deep depressive phases and some manic phases, although the depressive phases tend to be longer. But if my mental illness is bipolar disorder, then I could say in my case at least, my problems started early. Well, maybe. It's hard to say exactly, I definitely know I can trace back my anxiety problems to when I was very young, with my depressive and manic phases, I probably can say they also go back to when I was young, although in both cases, the problems only got really, really bad when I hit puberty. But even before then I had problems with social interaction, not necessarily obvious problems, but I found it extremely nerve racking to call people over the phone, so I ended up with much fewer outside school play-dates than other kids my age. With depression, it's hard to remember exactly because it's harder to remember mood, especially given the tendancy to romanticize youth. But I think overall, yeah there were depressive periods, and probably some manic periods back then. Did these problems go back to younger than 6 as the pyschiatrist in the article speculates? That I really, really, really don't know, because remembering all my feelings that long ago is very difficult and very speculative. But my problems didn't just start with puberty, they just got worse then. However, I should qualify myself by pointing out that my case is just one story and should not be regarded as the case for all people with bipolar disorders, and my problems might not even be bipolar. But at least I can say mental problems sometimes start early in a kid's life.

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