How many times have you heard of someone being misdiagnosed as bipolar? I know MI’s are hard to distinguish between, but for five years, my doctors told me I was bipolar and gave me many, many drugs for it….drugs I did not need. After a while, I had a new dr ask me some questions about drinking and some of my hypomanic episodes blahblah and he realized that everything that happened that seemed manic was caused by drinking.
I do have severe anxiety with depression, so the down stages were there, and when they weren’t, I was either in the middle or drinking, making myself v.up. Because of all of this, I even took lamictal during my entire pregnancy because they believed it to be more dangerous than not taking it. My child is almost six and fine, but it still makes me angry. The first doctor just decided what I was quickly during a hospital stay and every other dr for five years just went along with it (because it honestly all made sense to me….I didn’t think about alcohol or drugs having any part of it).
So now that this question is a novel, I just wonder how often you think people are misdiagnosed because of drs not checking the facts or just believing patients or previous doctors or whatever other reasons, and what consequences that has on the person being *treated*?
It’s not often I hear about diagnosis going that way, wow! That must have been very difficult. Though the stigma out there is that everyone is diagnosed with bipolar these days. If that’s true, I’ve yet to meet all of them. Where are they dang it!?!?! Sigh…
Let’s be frank (though I prefer to be George…), bipolar is NOT easy to diagnose. There are so many symptoms that can be other issues. So many symptoms that don’t even get noticed. And so many outside influences causing symptoms that might not otherwise be there.
When you throw in a little self medication it’s so hard to know what is what. Is it a mood disorder? Is it substance abuse? Is it both!? The problem is, regardless of why we are self medicating, the majority of us like to hide that little tid bit, and unfortunately, not all doctors consider asking about it. Is that our fault? Is it their fault? Probably a little bit of both…and I’m sure it happens to SO many people because of this break in communication.
Though my story is a bit different, in so many ways it is much the same. Where on one hand, you were more than willing to accept the “title” of bipolar because it made sense and explained the symptoms, I did the opposite. I had all the symptoms. I knew what was going on. But for the most part, I could hide the ups (or at least from a doctor that is) I what ups they were aware of they just attributed to my ADHD. I went 10 years with just being treated for Depression and ADHD. Stimulants only increased the swings and anti-depressants did nothing to stop them! In the end, I was a mess.
When seeking treatment there are some VERY important things to keep in mind, whether it be for yourself or for someone else you are trying to help. There is a reason we are seeking treatment. There is pain, lots of pain. Pain in those of us experiencing a mental condition and pain in those watching us suffer. Everyone’s goal is to do what? Stop the damn pain!
So why is it that when we go to the doctors and set out for a diagnosis we only tell them where half the pain is? It’s like going to a doctor after falling out a tree and telling them all about the pain in your broken leg but forgetting to mention that you smashed your wrist too. Just because your wrist doesn’t hurt AS MUCH as the leg does, doesn’t mean there isn’t something wrong with it. When we seek treatment, we need to be forth coming about everything!!!
At our first doctor’s appointment, we should be equipped with a list of ALL our symptoms no matter how much we don’t want to talk about them and no matter how much we think they MIGHT not be a symptom. I mean maybe it’s not a symptom, but we aren’t the ones to decide that. When making a list, ask yourself a bunch of questions …
- Am I sad? How often?
- Is it so bad that I’ve considered ending my life, hurting myself or hurting others?
- Is that sadness caused by some sort of event? Or is it there for no reason at all?
- Am I anxious? How often?
- Is that anxiety set off by certain types of stress, all stress, or just nothing at all?
- Am I happy in a way that seems almost unnatural? As in completely euphoric to the point of doing crazy things?
- How often does this happen? Just out of the blue? When I’m self medicating? When something really good happens? How long does it last?
- Are there other symptoms I’m experiencing that just seem out of the ordinary to me? Do I get really irritable or angry when there doesn’t seem to be a reason why? Do I hear voices or see things that no one else does? Am I unable to concentrate? Do I have racing thoughts?
- Is there ANYTHING else that might help my doctor in this diagnosis? Family history? Childhood events? Past substance abuse? Past anything that may have had an effect on who I am now?
Yes I know that the doctors SHOULD ask all of these questions. And yes I know that we fill out novel length questionnaires that ask most of these questions. But things do get missed. Sometimes the questions aren’t on paper. Sometimes the doctors are focusing on one symptom and may not think to ask about another.
Before I was diagnosed the doctor I was seeing was so focused on helping me get rid of my depression that he didn’t even think to ask any of the other questions. Bipolar was the last thing on his mind. When I went back to him after I got out of the hospital he actually apologized to me for not seeing it. He said it explained everything all the way down to why no matter how high we increased the doses of my anti-depressants, nothing seemed to help.
So after combating your novel with one of my own 🙂 … to answer your question … I’m sure it happens often. Doctors want to trust us that we are telling them everything. And if we don’t tell them everything, they have nothing more to go on. We like to think that they’ll ask all the important questions because maybe we don’t know they are important. Sure, a handful of the absolutely awesome doctors will dig deeper and get to the root of things, but that’s hard to come by. (NOT IN ANY WAY DOWN TALKING PDOCS. THEY ARE AMAZING and I can totally understand how hard it must be to come up with a diagnosis. Especially when us patients – me included- withhold some of the facts.) So although it happens often, it’s hard to say if it’s actually the Pdocs fault or the Patients. And in your case, I could tell you which either.
I think the point is, trying to place the blame on a misdiagnosis won’t get us to where we need to be. Once we have the correct diagnosis we should embrace it and be happy that we were able to find a doctor who caught it. And if at any time you question a diagnosis, NEVER hesitate to get a second opinion, even if just to quench your need for reassurance.
Just remember, honesty and communication go very far in trying to find the correct diagnosis!
***Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions and are not in any way intended to offend anyone. ***