Did you always know you were bipolar or did it just appear “suddenly”?
Now that’s really two questions wrapped up into one isn’t it? I’m just kidding and I will do my best to answer your question so you are satisfied with the answer.
The answer to your question is, no. I would say that for probably 95% (it’s probably closer to 100% but I have to leave some room for error) of us who are bipolar it didn’t just “suddenly appear”. Let me take some time now to fully explain my answer.
Many people who are bipolar start to experience symptoms any where from 5 to 10 years prior to a correct diagnosis. There are many reasons for this. Some begin to experience symptoms in childhood and/or adolescence. These symptoms can be completely missed, overlooked or just attributed to normal teenage behavior.
Young and older adults who experience symptoms sometimes have no idea what to think. Sometimes they attribute their symptoms to life’s stressors. Some think they are the one with problems and just need to “fix” or “adjust’ their way of thinking. Then some just hope it’s a temporary thing and will just go away.
Whatever the reasons are, treatment is most often not sought by most until the symptoms become so intolerable or they drastically interfere with their daily functioning.
Unfortunately, when people finally do seek treatment the majority is very often incorrectly or misdiagnosed. The most common misdiagnoses are Situational or Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder. There can be several reasons for this but I’ll just list a few, as I’m sure you’ll get the general idea. Some of the reasons why people are misdiagnosed when seeking “help” or treatment;
1) Some only seek treatment while in a depressive episode
2) Some will only disclose the depression they feel and not the mania, because manic episodes can often be misinterpreted as feeling “happy” or “normal”.
3) As a person is only presenting with depression, a more complete history of either recent or other symptoms prior to the depression is not explored.
4) People often 1st seek treatment with a General Practitioner (this is in way meant to offend GP’s) and most GP’s don’t have the specialized training and education that Psychiatrists and other Mental Health Care Providers dot have.
Please note: Even trained Psychiatrists and other
Mental Health Care Providers can make incorrect
These misdiagnoses can and often due have very unfortunate consequences. Some who are misdiagnosed are placed on a course of treatment that is inadequate or prescribed medication that is inappropriate for a person who is bipolar.
For those who do not seek any treatment will eventually at some point cycle into a manic episode that is often severe.
A person in a manic episode (severe or not) can act out or do things that are unhealthy, dangerous or harmful that has the potential to cause severe injury.
Probably the two most common ways a person with bipolar is diagnosed correctly are;
1) A manic episode is so severe that it frightens a
person into seeking treatment. Many times
the family becomes involved and encourages or
insists that their loved one gets help.
2) A person is hospitalized either voluntarily or
involuntarily. A person who is hospitalized
involuntarily must be in imminent danger of
harming themselves or another person.
An untreated person with bipolar often resorts to self harm behaviors such as cutting or burning themselves or even attempting suicide.
People with Bipolar Disorder have the highest rate of suicide attempts among those with other types of mental illness.
Whatever the reason, a correct diagnosis of bipolar can take a few to several years from the onset of symptoms.
If you know of anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, mood swings, going from being “ultra” happy to being extremely sad please encourage that person to get help.
I hope this answered your question.