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Controversial Diagnosis in DSM-5 Over Teen Bipolar Disorder

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I just watched Silver Linings Playbook, and without giving away too much, the main character has Bipolar Disorder. If you aren't familiar, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by chaotic and unpredictable mood swings that do not follow a set pattern. A person afflicted by Bipolar Disorder can experience the same mood for weeks, months, or even years and then suddenly experience the opposite mood without warning. The moods also vary by intensity and severity depending on the individual.

However, the DSM-5 (I know, same initials as mine–but not named after me) has addressed the controversial topic of diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in teenagers. Prone to chaotic and sudden mood swings, when should mental health professionals label a teen Bipolar? The DSM-5 apparently claims never, and instead has come up with a new diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder (DMDD). Teens affected by DMDD are described as experiencing frequent angry outburts several times a week for more than a year. These temper tantrums are not your typical ones either, instead they are out of proportion explosions that occur at least three times a week, are not typical for the developmental stage of the child, and began happening before 10 years old. However, the DSM stresses that children under the age of 6 should not be diagnosed with DMDD.

The point of adding the new diagnosis is to prevent over-medication, says the chair of the DSM-5 task force, David Kupfer. Currently, the number of teens diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder is skyrocketing and resulting in improper treatment including over-medication. Over-medication can lead to severe weight gain and even medical conditions such as Diabetes. For parents facing severely emotional teens, some are grateful for the new diagnosis with the hope that it will lead to better and more effective treatment without the harsh side-effects of the anti-psychotic medications given for Bipolar.