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Very Early Diagnosis Leads to Girl’s Death

Yes, I know, that’s a pretty extreme headline, but I don’t think it’s far from the truth. In my backyard, a psychiatrist (who has since taken paid leave from his job) unbelievably diagnosed a girl at 2 1/2 years old with not just one, but two mental disorders — ADHD and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is an adult diagnosis, rarely diagnosed in children. And virtually never diagnosed in a child younger than 5 years old.


Because children are naturally undergoing constant developmental changes largely determined by their environment that makes a diagnosis of a mental disorder challenging. A child that is “acting out” is often just exhibiting age-appropriate behavior for their age. Children are supposed to be children, not tiny adults meant to act appropriately in all social situations. And parents are tasked with the responsibility for raising children with proper social skills and such. Most parents are up to the task, but some, sadly, are not.

Two such parents can be seen in the Riley’s. Michael Riley, 34, and Carolyn Riley, 32, allegedly killed their daughter by regularly giving her drug overdoses, ostensibly to keep her calm and help her sleep. They pleaded not guilty yesterday to first-degree murder charges and were ordered held without bail.

The disturbing part is that a psychiatrist, of all professionals, diagnosed the dead child with these two very serious, long-term mental disorders:

Carolyn Riley’s lawyer […] raised questions about the psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, who prescribed the medication for Rebecca and diagnosed her at age 2 1/2 with attention deficit hyperactive disorder and bipolar disorder.

There’s a reason the DSM is divided into adult mental disorders and childhood disorders — the research doesn’t provide nearly the empirical research evidence for diagnoses of bipolar disorder in children. If a doctor makes such a diagnosis, they’re doing so largely based upon their own experiences, not those of science or research.

And unfortunately, many parents are not adequately informed about the serious strength of prescription medications — especially for a child as young as 3 or 4 years of age. Medications given at these ages is a very serious matter. Parents must be fully informed of the strength of prescription medications at this age and warned never to overprescribe medications to children this young. The unfortunate, tragic consequences of doing so is played out in the news today, and it is so very sad to read.

But it’s my opinion that if the psychiatrist was doing her job, she would’ve never diagnosed such a young child with such serious disorders so early on in the young infant’s life, nor prescribed such strong psychiatric medications for the concerns.


Very Early Diagnosis Leads to Girl’s Death

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Very Early Diagnosis Leads to Girl’s Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 7 Feb 2007)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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