What's happening? That's the question on the mind of many mental health professionals as they stare at the latest statistics concerning the huge increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Over a 10-year period, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and teens has increased by 40 times. In 1994, according to the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, 25 youth out of every 100,000 were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By the year 2003-2003, that rate had skyrocketed to 1,003 young people.

During the same period, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder only doubled for adults, the journal added. The journal failed to explain the rapid rise in the rate of bipolar disorder.

However, Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatrist with Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, who helped to author the study, did volunteer some information after its publication. He said that part of the rise in bipolar disorder among children and teens is that the health concern had been under diagnosed in the past.

Dr. Olfson did admit that another reason for the rise in bipolar disorder could also be due to an improper diagnosis. This worries some experts in the medical field, especially Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. He doubts that the rates of bipolar disorder in these children are as high as is being indicated.

Up until very recently, in fact, bipolar disorder was seldom a diagnosis children received. Many medical experts believe that symptoms of bipolar disorder don't appear until the late teens and in the early adult years. In the adult community, about 2 percent of the population is believed to be afflicted with bipolar disorder. That number, however, is currently being disputed. Some researchers believe the number of adults with bipolar disorder could be as high as 4 percent of the entire population.

Dr. Olfson suggests that some of these children who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are really suffering from attention deficient hyperactivity disorder. The doctor said that many of the symptoms of the two health problems overlap one another.

Addressing the concern was Dr. Gabrielle A. Carlson, a psychiatrist at Stony Brook University in New York. She explains that for every five children referred to her with bipolar disorder, only one really was afflicted with it. The other four children, she said, had autism, anxiety, depression or another psychological disorder.