The myth of the bipolar child

Everything about the current politics of child and pediatric bipolar disorder.

For what it’s worth–I was a ‘bipolar child’ myself. I got the diagnosis over ten years before Janice and Demitri Papolos authored: ‘The Bipolar Child: The Definitive and Reassuring Guide to Childhood’s Most Misunderstood Disorder’. At the time–the late 1980s–it was ultra-rare for a child or teen to have or be diagnosed with–bipolar or manic depression. In The Eighties, bipolar disorder was seen as an adult illness. In all likelihood, I was a ‘bipolar child’ before there were bipolar children in the media and Harvard research papers.

The neuroscience Big Pharma is funding seems to implicate that an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex is what causes a ‘bipolar child’ (or adult for that matter). I would point out—that all children have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. There is no way around it due to maturity and development. And what is maturity and development? It’s the growth of new neurons and connections in the brain—permanent ones—that influence our moods and judgments. So—all children— technically have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex in their brain. At least for a little while.

I have yet to see any studies that prove that a bipolar child’s prefrontal cortex is significantly less developed than any other child’s. Even if it was so–it does not mean it’s a lifer condition–it could just be a little delayed compared to other children in the same age group. Because–slow or fast–the prefrontal cortex develops continually over the course of your entire life with every impulse you deny and every emotion you restrain.

What this means is that the process of normal maturity will cause the prefrontal cortex to develop on it’s own. That is—the very act of trying to control your own moods and thoughts—is what creates a developed prefrontal lobe. Interestingly—science has recently proven using brain scans and imagery–that practitioners of meditation take prefrontal cortex development to a whole new level. So, a meditator can cause their prefrontal cortex to become highly developed—more so even—than people who do not practice meditation.

It took me merely five years to get my manic impulses, irrational screaming rages, depressions and suicide attempts straightened out by dedicating myself to the daily practice of prefrontal lobe-strengthening exercises–meditation. If you blame your moods and thoughts on your brain, genes, or neurotransmitters—and all you ever do to cope is medicate with psych meds—at what point do you start taking control of your own internal world—and all its contents—and begin to grow a prefrontal cortex capable of handling normal life?

The PC bipolar crowd resists any attempt to ‘blame’ yourself for your own emotional and thought problems. Some bipolar disorder patients will condemn you for essentially saying,

“You really can do something about your mental health by exerting mental will.”

“It’s the bipolar disease influencing us—we don’t have insight into our behavior! How dare you imply we can use magical thinking to control a genetic disorder?”

–is usually the standard-issue rebuttal.

Well…have you ever tried Vipassana—insight meditation—to get some insight? How often do you practice–getting insight? When was the last time you tried zen or mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy? With the studies I have shown you below, it should be clear that meditation is very much an act of will and insight that has been proven—to alter, strengthen and improve—the very section of your brain that Big Pharma neuroscientists are blaming for your problems.

Why are you blaming your genes and chemical imbalances? Why waste time complaining about your lack of insight or control over your symptoms—when you could be actively working on remedying that? Perhaps you didn’t know you could. That’s fair. But here in this post is the information you require to see yourself as potentially having control over your mind and emotions. Through what amounts to a lot of hard work—that could very well save you–as it did me–from a lifetime of disability and awful polypharmacy treatments and their side effects.

If I got the chance, I would happily testify at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association or the Senate regarding my concerns about the current ‘pediatric bipolar’ diagnosing trend in America, and the crime against children that I think it represents. I would love to share my insights into long-term bipolar disorder outcomes, alternative treatments for it, and the science of meditation and brain development behind my own self-cure from a former ‘bipolar child’ perspective. If you can arrange that, shoot me an email.


About Jane

Ms. Alexander. author, activist, artist
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4 Responses to The myth of the bipolar child

  1. Kathy Farrey says:

    Awesome blog. Good luck with your book.

  2. TheBPBedouin says:

    So, let me say first and foremost, I agree that meditation ca be a great way to manage mental illness. BUT, it is not, in my experience, the be all end all. And to suggest that it is, to suggest that we as people with bipolar disorder can solve our ills with deep meditation is…well…a little off the mark.

    Mental illness is typically a physiological illness with psychological symptoms. Genetic predispositions aside, I do agree that diagnosing children as bipolar is extremely tricky. Kids are unpredictable anyway and attempting to decipher where poor parenting or plain childhood exuberance ends and a mental illness begins is irresponsible.

    But, again, if it was not for my meds, which are not great, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And there are those of us who respect spiritualism and meditation and holistic approaches but don’t really want much to do with them personally. So, to each there own…

    I did enjoy reading this post though…

    • Jane says:

      Hello Bedouin, thanks for visiting and reading my stuff.

      When it comes to diagnosing children, I’d rather children not be on the table for diagnosing at all. In my opinion, bipolar disorder needs to be an adult-only illness again. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is there is no proof of genes being responsible at all.

      There is no clinical, testable, physiological proof in medicine of bipolar disorder, with one exception. The brains of people who are suffering from bipolar symptoms that have been PET scanned during an episode show deficits in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain which rules emotions and thoughts like a traffic cop. That is the only biological evidence that exists right now, besides a person’s subjective experience of their own suffering.

      Meditation has been shown, in these same kinds of PET scans, to develop the very area of the brain fingered as having these deficits. Basically, you do meditation, you grow a stronger, better, more developed prefrontal cortex, and lo and behold, episodes become less frequent, symptoms less severe.

      There are three primary setbacks which prevent a person from using meditation to develop their brain like that.

      One: lack of interest or desire. Self-explanatory.
      Two: lack training. A lot of people claim to know how to meditate, as I did, in my early twenties, and where did it get me? Nowhere. Because I read a bunch of new age books that led me down false avenues. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t. When I finally got proper instruction, the difference in my practice was like night and day.
      Third: time. You need time to practice meditation. It takes time (months and years) to grow these stabilizing meditation circuits in your brain through neuroplasticity.

      If you do not have the will, the technical know-how and the time to dedicate yourself to developing this skill which will affect your brain function if you do it long enough, then you are not going to benefit from meditation as a means to cure yourself of your mental problem. It’s relegated to a de-stressing, ‘adjunct’ therapy.

      Meditation was my path to healing. More than any other lifestyle changes I made, making meditation a religion in my life was what really led to my healing. Here is an article I wrote about it that might interest you.

      Meditation as a cure for mental illness.

      Take care and good luck.

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