Is bipolar disorder becoming like First Amendment claims . . . an excuse for bad parenting and questionable adult behavior in the future?

I told Neil that I felt like the mood stablizers were making everything worse.  They made me feel devoid of feeling.  There were times when Neil and I would fight—I would say the most terrible things running through my mind.  It was like I was numb to realizing how brutal they were.  Like my whole essence was some void filled with the vaguest hint of overwhelming apathy. I couldn’t even discern what was really below the belt in the heat of the moment because everything felt the same.  I told him that I wanted to change.  That I knew if I couldn’t control myself he was going to leave me because in all honesty I knew I all ready deserved that.

from To Take My Meds or Not To Take My Meds

It is of course an impossibility to truly understand and feel what another person is experiencing outside of the context of your own experiences.  After all, how can you see into the heart of another, even if that other is your partner in life?  How do you know for example that bad behavior is truly tied to an undercurrent of compounded emotional childhood traumas in which the person really is a void filled with an overwhelming apathy or is instead, part of what Diana Chan and Lester Sireling referred to as the “new and unusual phenomenon,where patients present to psychiatrists with self-diagnosedbipolar disorder.”  A kind of get out of jail free card that is meant to circumvent the undesired stress related to avoiding the consequences of one’s own actions.

I must admit that in the majority of circumstances I find that I lack the ability to make a distinction between the two, which in and of itself is a challenging and disconcerting proposition.  In essence, how do you really know if someone is suffering from an illness in which their ability to interact outside of the realms of their own self-absorption is beyond their control, or is instead the byproduct of poor training and a selfish spirit?

In my December 13th, 2009 post “Antipsychotic Prescriptions . . . for Children: Is the Medicaid Story Today’s Version of Go Ask Alice?” I make reference to the alarming rate at which an increasing percentage of children between the ages of 3 and 17 are prescribed powerful anti psychotic drugs.  Commensurate with this increase in prescriptions it will surprise no one that anti psychotics “are the single biggest drug expenditure for Medicaid, costing the program $7.9 billion in 2006, the most recent year for which the data is available.”

One of the cases to which I had made reference and stood out, involved the mother of a child who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 3.  Prescribed medication the child who is now 10 suffers with both weight and heart problems.  When confronted with this result, the mother credits Medicaid for making the boy’s mental and physical conditions manageable. “They’re helping with everything,” she said.” They’re helping me with everything!?!  Perhaps parental selfishness, even in the absence of a bipolar condition, begets childhood selfishness that overwhelmingly shades the future adult’s perception of the world?

Looking at the 10 year old today, one can only imagine what their coping skills will be in terms of their parenting?  This is of course the great question at the crossroads of the nature versus nurture debate.  Again referencing the above case, was the child organically bipolar or was their behavior merely a reflection or perhaps response to their parents’ own bad behavior?  I said it before, and I will say it again, I find it ludicrous to label a 3 year old as being insulary bipolar.

The question this then raises is even more troubling in that by diagnosing children at such a very young age with bipolar disorder and treating them with drugs, are we not creating a situation that is tantamount to one of self-fulfilling prophecy?  In essence, are we manufacturing a troubled future because parents who themselves are either disinterested or ill-equipped to raise their children are looking for a quick and easy way to make their children more manageable?

This of course brings us back to parenting, and the impact that our actions have on our children.  If, as the reports suggest, there is a noticeable increase in the number of adults claiming that they suffer from bipolar disorder, and as a result do not have the prerequisite skill sets (re patience) to deal with their children are they selfishly going to label their own offspring as being problematic and in the process perpetuate the diagnosis-medication cycle?  From the standpoint of the pharmaceutical industry, this is great for business as the treatment for the primary “illness” opens the door to secondary and perhaps even tertiary revenue streams such as in the case of the 10 year old who is today grappling with obesity and a heart condition.  However, and from the perspective of society overall, this emerging reality has dire consequences in terms of adult relationships, and the stability of the family unit as we know it.

Now before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am of a similar mind to a Tom Cruise re the use of prescription drugs to treat a bonafide illness, this is not the case.  There are without a doubt many conditions in which drugs have served both an honorable and effective service to humanity.  The difference is one of degrees and trying to determine at which point we cross the line of championing life-affirming treatment and self-serving rationalization based largely on the fact that life is too hard and we do not have the gumption to stand up and face it’s everyday challenges.

In a follow-up post later this week, I will delve deeper into the origins of adult bipolar disorder, including anxiety and depression referencing what some consider to be a questionable study, The Adverse Childhood Experiences or “ACE” Study.

PI Media Bite:

Bipolar in Children: Fact or Convenient Fiction?


5 Responses to “Is bipolar disorder becoming like First Amendment claims . . . an excuse for bad parenting and questionable adult behavior in the future?”
  1. jimbouchard says:

    Very important topic!

    Working with children for the past 20 years I’ve seen both sides of this issue. The fact is we’re over-medicating kids; that detracts from the proper application of meds that can genuinely change a young person’s life for the better.

    I would like to see more screening of parent’s behaviors and parenting skills as part of a comprehensive diagnosis process. That would go a long way toward the over-application of meds.

    Best thoughts!

  2. sandiscott48 says:

    Agreed! Children require attention and time. A careful balance. Being a source of information and opinion regarding the consequences of a child’s actions. Letting her know the nature of the world we live in. (not the atitudes of people bigger and smarter than she is) Set limits on what she can and cannot do in the world. If you recognize her as an individual that is allowed to learn for herself..a genuine friendship can develop between you…she will be willing to talk with you about ideas, plans and problems—because she won’t have to fear the moral retribution that some parents inflict when they disagree with their child’s views or actions. Parents who fear letting their children make decisions fail to realize that their children DO make decisions on their own. You can’t possibly control all of your child’s actions…So the best security you have is based upon two conditions…allowing the child to learn as early as possible that his actions do have consequences..and developing a friendship that will allow her to come to you when she needs help. If either of these conditions are missing don’t be surprised if you find out about a crisis only after it has happened. A child that knows that acts have consequences and knows that she has a wise parent will be more likely to consult with this parent before risking something dangerous. Love and understanding are important to a child. And showing your love for her by respecting her individuality and appreciating her for what she is, not for what you force them to be is important.

  3. Larry Winget says:

    There are cases where I am sure medication should be administered —— but not many. Funny how a generation of outspoken, squirm-in-their-chair, boisterous, mischievous kids turned out to be the most productive generation in the history of our world and all without the use of psychotropic drugs but instead, involved parents. And our current generation, the one that spends more money than they make, have a sense of entitlement that is beyond belief, has an unnatural fascination with the mundane and shallow, can’t get a job or hold a job and are ranked 27 in education in the world have parents who spend less time communicating with them than they spend brushing their teeth (real factoid by the way) and rely regularly on the use of drugs to manage the behavior of their children.

    It’s easier to stick a pill down your kid’s throat than to stand over them, making them sit still and read or study. Easier to park them in front of the television or put a video game in their hand than to talk to them or help them read a book. We have become an entire society who has made the “easy way out” into an art form and over medicating our children is part of it.

    • just mychelle says:

      i concur, many are bright and take a lead in life. It is easy to pop a pill or better to say give one. It takes patience, I am training my dog at the moment, and was taught if you don’t have the time it is not fair to do so. Children are our future….they are not little adults like society is trying to mould. let them be kids, they have more than enough time to be adults.

      I respect kids and their behaviours, to me they are a language, one must listen, i do. that is why i specialize with complex behavioural issues. really i do not see them much, sad thing is when they return home or to school.

  4. christianlogay says:

    I agree with Mr. Winget’s comment on what parents are doing these days to get out of actually “raising” their kids. Its sickening think parents have resorted to caving in to the child when the kid screams just to get them to go away and leave them alone. In my house as a kid, a child took no for answer and that was it. If we didn’t like it, that was to bad. My dad raised us kids to be productive members of society, to do the work because its what you get paid for and to always plan for the future and be respectful. Using Bipolar as an excuse for not being able to cope with life is to me an insult to the people who actually deal with Bipolar everyday. Living with a child that is Bipolar (as i do), you know whats real and whats not. its a parents job to discern between the two and act accordingly. Its an age old fact that a parent WILL spend time with their children; either when they are young and thriving, or when they are grown and wearing shackles and an orange jumpsuit. Kids are a product of their environment and if the environment is to “push away” and not deal with the responsibilities of being a parent, then that will ultimately be the outcome, and the child will do the same thing.

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