What would you recommend for a person who thinks they are bipolar but can’t get her doctor to diagnose her?

What would you recommend for a person who thinks they are bipolar but can’t get her doctor to diagnose her, thus preventing her from getting medication. We’re talking seriously severe issues. My friend is ready to take steps to try to help herself (because for years she denied any problems). Suggestions? Are there specific doctors that focus on this? Is there a reason a doctor might not want to deal with it, as in the case with her current one? Help!!

I think it is fantastic that your friend is ready to take the step to find help.  Many people never make that decision and I think its also commendable that you are helping her with this.  Its a very emotional thing to be taking on, so as much support as your friend can get,the better.
First, what type of doctor is she currently seeing for this issue?  If she is only seeing her medical doctor, she should definitely go to a psychiatrist.  Please remember that in no way can I diagnose your friend, nor can any of us on Ask A Bipolar, and say that she is bipolar or should be on medication.  She may not, in fact, have bipolar, but some other mood disorder or underlying issues.  Only a qualified doctor can determine this.  There are not any specific doctors that specialize in bipolar disorder (at least to my knowledge), but you can look for doctors that treat a high percentage of patient with mood disorders (bipolar is considered a mood disorder).
However, if she is just seeing her medical doctor, that could be the reason the doctor is not addressing the problem.  If this is her psychiatrist, and she feels that her current one is not listening, or feels there is something more that is wrong that is not being addressed (like bipolar), then she should definitely seek a second opinion.  A doctor (medical or psychiatric) should be listening to all of their patients concerns, so if she does not feel her current doctor is listening, seeking another opinion would be the next step.  If she is seeing a psychologist, a psychologist would not be prescribing any medication because they are not licensed or qualified to do so.
Usually, when someone is seeking treatment for bipolar they will have a psychiatrist who will oversee their medication needs and a therapist who will help them work through the psychological and other issues that go along with it. I am very fortunate to have a “psychotherapist” who acts in both capacities.  I personally like using a psychotherapist because he is in charge of both aspects of my care and eliminates confusion between doctors.  When I was in the hospital, I had two sets of doctors, plus my psychotherapist and each one was trying to override the other which resulted in being put on medications I was previously on that were ineffective and other things that ended up delaying my progress instead of encourage it.
It is important that your friend find doctors who will work together through the course of her treatment.  Sometimes one doctor will have a referral to another that they recommend for the other aspect of the therapy.  Most times those referrals are helpful because it means that those doctors already have an established working relationship and will be effectively working together for her care.
In the meantime, until it is determined if she is bipolar, it is best to continue to encourage her and supportive because she is now ready to take these huge, brave steps.  Very often people refuse to acknowledge or recognize that there is something wrong, and rarely do they attempt to seek help for it.  This is a huge journey she is about to embark on and it can be emotionally trying.  Many people go to doctors and hope for an instant cure.  There IS NO CURE for bipolar, only ways to manage it and NOTHING about the treatment for bipolar or other mood disorders is INSTANT!!!!!   It takes time for the doctors and therapists to find the right methods and medications.  It is a lot of trial and error which can leave your friend frustrated at times.
The most important thing since your friend begins seeking therapy is to keep encouraging her to CONTINUE TREATMENT!!!!  Together, your friend and her doctors will find what works, but it can take more time for some than for others.  You can also refer her to the Ask A Bipolar website and Facebook page.  She doesn’t have to interact if she is not comfortable and can just view the information we have on the site, but if she wants or needs support from people who have been there before, we all surely have and can definitely relate.
Don’t forget that you too can also continue to ask questions here at Ask A Bipolar and can also be part of the Ask A Bipolar Facebook page yourself.  There are lots of friends and loved ones  there that can relate to you as well.
I hope this helps you and can help your friend begin her path to finding some answers.  If either of you need more information on how to go about finding doctors in the Chicagoland area, feel free to email me at Christi@askabipolar.com and I can provide a few resources specific to the Chicago area.  (This actually goes for any of our readers in the Chicago area that need help finding out where they can go to when they are trying to find a doctor)

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