Rethinking Bipolar Kids' Treatment

Kira Olguin, young girl who suffers from bipolar disorder CBS

As CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, for Katrina and Bill Olguin, life revolves around their middle child Kira, who at the young age of 4 has rages so violent her own parents are terrified.

"I believe it started when she was an infant," says Katrina Olguin.

How bad does it get?

"It gets bad," she says. "We've caught her banging her head against the wall."

Is she suicidal?

"Not yet," says her mother.

Twice, her parents have rushed her to the hospital.

"On the way to the ER she attacked me while I was driving," says Katrina Olguin. "She unbuckled and repeatedly beat me in the head."

Desperate for a diagnosis, Kira's mother even videotaped her daughter for doctors. Months later, she got one: bipolar disorder.

"It is far more common than we ever thought," says Dr. Janet Wozniak.

Wozniak, who specializes in bipolar syndrome in children, says because the periods of rage cycle so much more rapidly than in adults, the condition is dangerously underdiagnosed in children.

"A quarter of the parents are describing a syndrome that has been there from birth," says Wozniak.

But despite growing evidence that bipolar disorder runs in families and begins in early childhood, diagnosing very young children is still a radical idea, and the powerful psychiatric drugs used to treat adults have virtually no track record in children.

"You are treating a very young population right in the middle of a rapid period of brain development," says psychiatrist Jon McClellan.

Dr. McClellan says such an extreme diagnosis in a child so young is simply dangerous.

"The label itself becomes an explanation – 'It's not me, its my bipolar disorder.' That becomes a problem," says McClellan. "Kids are not held accountable or parents are afraid to intervene.

What are the risks of diagnosing a child as young as 4?

"We don't know anything about the long-term consequences for that age group," says McClellan.


Despite Kira's diagnosis, her doctors still refuse to treat her. But her parents fear that without treatment, she will soon hurt herself or someone else.

So what does the future hold for Kira?

"If things continue the way they are, I don't think she'll be with us," says her mother. "I have no doubt in my mind that we'll end up losing her."

And her parents say they refuse to stand and watch their little girl's life slip away.

"She's a wonderful loving child, and she deserves to have a chance to be the person that she can be," says her mother.
  • Jaime Holguin

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