Scared of Bipolar

I want to get help for my bipolar that my boyfriend and i have self diagnosed me with. He is the only one who knows. I have been suffering with sadness and depression since i was 14. And at 16 more manic symptoms came and now I’m 18 and had the worst manic outbreak ever. I don’t know how to tell my mom i need help. I don’t want her disappointed or to think I’m lying. Nobody else in my family has bipolar.

Thank you for writing to us about your concerns.  From what you have described you very well could have bipolar disorder.  However you cannot really conclude that what you are suffering from is bipolar disorder unless a trained psychiatrist has actually diagnosed you with it.  It may be that you are inflicted with something entirely different and/or you could have “multiple disorders” which are causing you your problems.  It is really hard to know for sure unless you undergo a complete assessment by a psychiatrist.

Because you have said that you and your boyfriend have “self-diagnosed” yourself I am guessing that you have not been “officially diagnosed by a doctor”.  Assuming that this is the case it would be important for you to seek a “medical opinion” by either your family doctor or a doctor at a walk-in medical clinic.  That way you can express your concerns to the doctor and they should be able to refer you to a psychiatrist for an assessment if they think that is necessary.  Although that may seem quite overwhelming to you I think that would be the best thing for you to do at this point.  I am not sure that you have to tell your mother anything at this stage because it sounds like you do not really “know for sure” that what you have is bipolar disorder.

Seeing that you are 18 years old I think that is really up to you as to whether you talk with your mother about this.  You may want to wait on that until you know for sure what it is you are suffering from.  However if you feel like it would be helpful to talk with your mother about what your suspicions are then that may be a good option for you.  I think it sort of depends on whether talking with your mother or anybody for that matter will be “helpful” to you at this stage.  If you believe that it will not be in your best interest at this time to discuss your concerns with your mother then I would suggest that you wait until you know more from a doctor.  Most doctors are very good about giving you advice and guidance around these kinds of matters so long as you let them know that you aren’t sure what to do next.

I can relate well to your concerns as I also began to suffer from depression at around the age of fourteen.  I am also very familiar with what it is like to have a “manic episode”.  I went undiagnosed for years and continually struggled.  I had to see a few different psychiatrists to finally be correctly diagnosed.  At first doctors only thought that I suffered from “depression”.  However I continued to struggle and knew that something was not right.  Eventually I was correctly diagnosed with having bipolar II disorder along with generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD so I am a very good example of someone who has more than one disorder.  I applaud you for having such great insight into yourself at such an early age.  That in itself is a huge positive as the better you know what your symptoms are the quicker a doctor should be able to figure things out.  And because bipolar disorder includes a “chemical imbalance within the brain”, it is more often than not that a person will need to be on some sort of medication to help with stabilizing their symptoms.

It was vital for me and my doctors to get things right so each disorder could be medically treated individually.  My “primary diagnosis” has been listed as bipolar II with the ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder being “secondary diagnoses”.  Once that was established the bipolar II was treated first with a medication called “Seroquel” which has been important for my “mood stabilization”.   I was also prescribed “Wellbutrin” to help with my depression and anxiety.  Lastly I was put on “Concerta” for my ADHD.  So as you can see my psychiatrist had to work on finding the right “med cocktail” which would work best for me.  That being said everyone reacts differently to any type of medication, so what works for me may or may not work for the next person who has a mental illness like bipolar disorder.

And although you may think that no one in your family has bipolar it is quite possible that they do but it has gone “undiagnosed” or sometimes family members can be in a lot of “denial” when it comes to mental illness.  Bipolar is one of those disorders that can run in families, I for one believe that I have a few family members who suffer from one kind of mental illness or another.  But they are old school in their thinking and it is pretty much a “closed subject” within my family.  Unfortunately some people will never admit to having a problem and as a result do not seek help.  However it has been my experience that if mental illness is left “untreated” by a medical professional a lot of unnecessary suffering will likely be the result.  So I urge you to speak with a doctor as hard as that may be.  I think in the end you will be doing yourself a huge favor.  Being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder is not a death sentence, with the proper medical care and treatment to help manage our symptoms most of us can do quite well.

I hope that I have been able to ease some of your fears and have given you some good suggestions to help with your situation.  I wish you the best and hope that things work out for you.  If you have any further questions or comments for us please write to us again at www.askabipolar.com.

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