6 1 discussion mood disorders

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In your opinion, are certain mood disorders overly diagnosed in children and adolescents? Support your rationale using specific and insightful examples.

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In your opinion, are certain mood disorders overly diagnosed in children and adolescents? Support your rationale using specific and insightful examples.

This topic hits close to home for me, I’m the mom of a little boy who fights a possible imposing mood disorder each day. When my baby was around one year old our pediatrician as well as myself and my husband noticed fits of anger at a level I had never witnessed in another child. Not to long after that I began to research, and to be honest what I ran into was bipolar mood disorder or sometimes just mood disorder in general. However, each headline read severely undiagnosed or Under diagnosed in youth. Since then my son has still been plagued by fits of anger that are unlike anything else. And we have been to several different specialty doctors over the years all giving different diagnoses, one being what they called a possible impending mood disorder, requesting our soon to be watches closely, he is six years old. I of course was dumbfounded as my young son was still changing, developing, growing, how could such a heavy diagnoses be given before he really had a chance to develop and learn. Part of my thought that maybe the “impending disorder” was given as a way to quiet our questions as parents. Part of me thought that maybe they had no other answers and this seemed to fit. Part of me worried that maybe nothing would ever fit, and appropriate treatment may not be in the cards for us. I can only imagine how many other families feel the same as they are faced with diagnoses they worry may not fit, and then worry even more when they do.

What I hadn’t realized back then, as I hadn’t even started school when I had begun to research, was the years in which the information I found had taken place. I wasn’t looking at the most recent information or true research information, because at the time I was unaware how best to look. When looking this week it because very apparent that when searching out more recent studies it shows a distinct jump in professionals diagnosing young people with bipolar disorder. “The rate of diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) in children and adolescents, which includes bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified, has risen to over one million children in the United States, a 40-fold increase over the past decade (Burston 2010)” (Stebbins, & Corcoran, 2016, pp. 115). This was surprising to see, especially considering it was the opinion felt by many professionals as I reviewed different studies and articles in the more recent years.

In a 2012 study the point was made that bi-polar disorder may be a over used diagnoses due to the lack of terms and criteria in the DSM-V. One that would suit the symptoms being noticed better the bi-polar disorder. “The DSM-V Work Group has suggested a new diagnosis termed disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) (formerly temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria) to reduce the rate of false diagnosis of bipolar disorder in young people” (Margulies, Weintraub, Basile, Grover, & Carlson, 2012, pp. 488). This particular study had many limitations, and didn’t bring about clear data that would indicate that the addition of DMDD would reduce bi-polar diagnoses. It’s clear more research is needed. Even the 2016 study brought up the same distinct points. Stating, “Finally, additional research is clearly needed in the study of the DMDD diagnosis and its effect on the rates of other diagnoses. What the new diagnosis will mean for assessment and treatment is not yet understood” (Stebbins, & Corcoran, 2016, pp. 122). Regardless of the reason for multiple diagnoses in recent years it seems as though tackling mood disorders in children and adolescence is still new and much is still being researched and discovered. Nailing down exactly what is needed may take time, patience and the drive of loving families who want the right care for their children, and amazing professionals willing to do the work.


Margulies, D. M., Weintraub, S., Basile, J., Grover, P. J., & Carlson, G. A. (2012). Will disruptive mood dysregulation disorder reduce false diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children?. Bipolar Disorders, 14(5), 488-496.

Stebbins, M., & Corcoran, J. (2016). Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: The Child Psychiatrist Perspective. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 33(2), 115–122. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1007/s10560-01…


In your opinion, are certain mood disorders overly diagnosed in children and adolescents?

Children and adolescents are still growing and developing and are not as likely to experience mood disorder symptoms as adults typically do (Stanford Children’s Health, 2020). Some symptoms that are common for individuals to experience with mood disorders are feelings of sadness and despair, loneliness, loss of interest in regularly preferred activities, trouble with friends or family or school, and even suicidal attempts among other symptoms (Stanford Children’s Health, 2020). As with other disorders, sometimes mood disorders can be overly diagnosed by clinicians in children and adolescents. One of the most overly diagnosed mood disorders in this age group is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I believe that a lot of teachers recommend that children get tested for ADHD because they are active kids in class and have a hard time paying attention. Just because a student does not pay attention in class or is a little spacey does not classify them as having ADHD. In fact, a lot of these kids will get diagnosed with ADHD and then go on medication, which can hurt their developing systems and hinder their learning even more. According to Merten, Cwik, Margraf and Scheider (2017), this “overdiagnosis can occur due to use of heuristics, disregarding differential causes of observed behavior, misleading endorsement of symptoms by caregivers, or differential interpretation of diagnostic criteria by examiners” (p. 10-11). In order to try and avoid overdiagnosis, clinicians should constantly be up to date on current research regarding mood disorders (and other disorders) and continue to use clinical interviews. By being up to date on current knowledge on mood disorders, the clinician will be helping their client to the best of their ability.


Merten, E.C., Cwik, J.C., Margraf, J. et al. Overdiagnosis of mental disorders in children and adolescents (in developed countries). Child Adolescent Psychiatry Mental Health 11, 5 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-016-0140-5

Stanford Children’s Health. (2020). Stanford Children’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=overview-of-mood-disorders-in-children-and-adolescents-90-P01634


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