Getting a proper diagnosis is often a hit and miss at the best of circumstances. My mother has had a million tests for all of her physical problems but at least there is somewhat of a method to the search. When it comes to mental health, the process is not as clear and focussed. The guidelines to diagnosis are not universal as every doctor seems to go about their own way and draw their own conclusions. This leads to many mis-diagnoses. Not to mention that the doctor must strongly rely on the word of the patient to reach the proper conclusion.
Top 3 Reasons Bipolar Is Misdiagnosed
1. Individuals Only Go Seek Help When Depressed
People that have Bipolar Disorder love mania and they usually embrace it until their actions land them in prison or in the hospital. But sooner or later, that mania will flip into depression. That is usually the time that they will reach out for help.
My husband suffered for many years with panic attacks and depression. That’s not to say he did not have manic episodes. He just didn’t see them as a problem and they didn’t get him into any trouble. He was put on anti-depressants by his GP and sent on his way. There weren’t any psych appointments made or in-depth analysis to dig deeper. The meds worked so everyone’s conclusion was that they had solved his “problem”. But what happened next is very common. He went into hypo-mania.
The worst thing that can happen to a person with bipolar is to be put on anti-depressants only. The depression goes away but without a mood stabilizer on board as well, hypo mania is not far behind.
2. Self Medicate
Many individuals will mask and ease their mental health symptoms by self-medicating. If their self-medicating becomes an addiction or a hindrance for them in their lives, they may seek out help for their addictions. The addictions may seem, at first glance, to be the source of their problems. Some may go through many years of relapse and sobriety, never addressing the real root of their addictions and therefore never achieve true sobriety.
My husband has been clean and sober for 25 years. The initial years after getting sober were very difficult and many symptoms he felt during that time, he had just attributed to the difficulty of getting and staying clean. It was only years later that a pattern of mania and depression emerged. Only then was he able to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some may never give up self medicating, thus making a correct diagnosis and treatment very difficult. If someone continues to self medicate, the prescribed meds are never given a chance to work properly. The patient may give up on the prescribed meds and/or the doctor may keep switching meds, in an effort to find the right cocktail. Symptoms become masked or jumbled which could lead to a different diagnosis altogether.
3. No Verifiable Test
My son has type 1 Diabetes. It was a simple blood test to diagnosis his disease. My cousin has cervical cancer. An abnormal Pap test helped make the diagnosis. Mental Disorders are not that easy to diagnose. There is no medical test they can perform to accurately pinpoint which if any of the disorders you have. Even after extensively analysing your symptoms, sometimes it takes the trial and error of different medications to arrive at any conclusions. And because there is no test, all of this is directly related to the honesty and awareness of the patient. You can see why it can take years to come to the right diagnosis.
Tips to Facilitate a Correct Diagnosis
It is very important that you find a doctor that will be very thorough before making a diagnosis and prescribing meds. Here’s a checklist to go over with your physician to ensure a proper diagnosis.
- Full physical. Eliminate and/or treat any physical ailments.
- Go over complete family medical history and any suspected non diagnosed disorders.
- Discuss all symptoms and events as far back as you can remember that prevented you from having a healthy, happy life.
- Be open and honest. You can’t get help if you fudge the truth.
- If you don’t feel comfortable with doing #4 with your doctor or therapist you are with, find another one. This is about you getting the help you need.
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