One of the problems of bipolar disorder is the delay in the actual diagnosis of the health condition. One statistic claims that it takes nearly twenty years for an individual to be identified as possessing bipolar disorder.

Within recent years, alert parents and doctors are beginning to recognize the advantages of detecting bipolar disorder early. Today, more than ever, children are getting a diagnosis and being treating for this health condition. While many see this as an amazing advance in treatment - undiagnosed individuals frequently turn to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms to their still undiagnosed bipolar disorder - it has raised some concerns.

A recent article in New Scientist magazine questions whether the medical community is actually over diagnosing bipolar disorder in children. The recent death of a four-year old from an overdose of medication she was taking for bipolar disorder has prompted the inquiry.

Critics claim that the trend began after 1994 when the psychiatric community widened the definition of bipolar disorder to include several categories of severity. Child psychiatrists Gabrielle Carlson and Joseph Blader, both from the Stony Brook University of New York, seem to have the statistics to back up this claim. They analyzed data on people with bipolar disorder who had been recently discharged from hospitals. Between 1996 and 2005, they say, the rate of diagnosis went up 'minimally in adults.' However, the rise in children being diagnosed with bipolar disorder during this time period was 'astronomical.'

In 1996, 13 of every 100,000 children in the United States were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By the year 2004, this number had jumped to 73 in 100,000 being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. To look a little closer at numbers, consider this. In 1996 of all the children diagnosed with a psychiatric condition only one in 10 were identified as having bipolar disorder. By 2004, that number had jumped to four out of every 10 possessing bipolar disorder.

Some experts believe that this early diagnosis even with the increasing prevalence of bipolar disorder is due to the increased recognition that bipolar disorder can, indeed, affect children. Others say that such early detection and treatment of this illness is unjustified, to say the least. One expert cited the often harsh side effects of prescription drugs should deter medical experts from giving these to children for bipolar disorder.

Another concern involves the findings that are just emerging from Spain recently published in the journal Bipolar Disorders. It claims that children given antidepressants actually go on to develop bipolar disorder at an earlier age - at the age of 10 instead of 14 - and their symptoms are often more severe than those who had not been administered the medications.

Another concern is that the preoccupation with bipolar disorder is not only prompting misdiagnoses, but actually missing the identification of other, potentially serious problems.