Monday, March 19, 2012

Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder - I Don't Understand?

What brought you to your doctor or psychiatrist’s office? Were you feeling depressed, hyperactive, and not able to sleep or sleeping all the time?  What were your symptoms that were becoming disabling?

I have received many comments and questions regarding initial diagnosis, and where to go from there. I am sure these scenarios are not the same for everyone; hopefully folks can take something from each one. I decided to include this blog, and intermittently discuss my personal experiences, and provide some basic information about mood disorders.

I use the term mood disorder interchangeably with bipolar disorder. The definition of a mood disorder is the term designating a group of diagnoses where a disturbance in the person's mood is hypothesized to be the main underlying feature.  The two most common “mood disorders,” are classified as Bipolar Disorder, or Major Depressive Disorder. Under these classifications, there are sub-categories, which I will briefly discuss below.

Education is very important for those just diagnosed with a mood disorder and it is important as well for family and friends to educate themselves too. The internet has such a vast amount of information on mood disorders, as well as details on medication your doctor has prescribed to you. I highly suggest folks diagnosed with a mood disorder take the time to do research on the internet, and if internet access is not available, there are wonderful books available at the library or bookstore.

A huge help has been gaining the knowledge of all aspects of my mood disorder, and it plays a huge part in understanding what my psychiatrist is suggesting, and allows me to ask questions as well. Otherwise I would feel like I was listening to someone speak a foreign language I have no idea how to speak. 

Statistically it is not uncommon for individuals to be misdiagnosed at least once. As severe as my bipolar is, it took many trips to the hospital and my psychiatrist’s office to receive the diagnosis. Because there are so many facets to the disorder, if one comes in to the doctors while depressed, the odds of being diagnosed with major depression is highly likely. With all mood disorders, cycling is not uncommon and unless psychiatrists have witnessed the cycling on a continuous basis, diagnosis of bipolar disorder most likely will take longer to identify. The bad thing about this is that medications to treat mood disorders vary depending on your diagnosis. 

Sometimes, if you are an individual who has bipolar, but is just showing signs of depression, a psychiatrist who prescribes an antidepressant can result in a huge disaster. The likeliness of rapid cycling while on an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer is very common.

Before I get into the “types of bipolar disorder”; here is some terminology used below. Please note that this is just a BRIEF description, and does not entail all symptoms.

Mania:  Easily distracted; little need for sleep; poor judgment or temper control; reckless behavior and/or lack of control; sexual promiscuity; spending sprees; overly elevated mood (i.e. increased energy and activity; racing thoughts; overly talkative; grandiosity such as very high self-esteem); agitation and/or irritability.

Depressed Phase of Bipolar Disorder: Daily low mood or sadness; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; eating problems, such as weight loss or weight gain; fatigue or lack of energy; feeling worthless or hopeless; low self esteem; thoughts of suicide.

Here is a brief overview of types of bipolar disorder; most likely, the doctor or psychiatrist will use similar terminology to refer to your diagnosis. Please note this does not include every subtype of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I: (this is my diagnosis and the most severe classification) this term is usually given to individuals who have/had experiences with severe depression and full-blown mania

Bipolar II: Diagnosed when somebody has had many major depressive episodes as well as episodes of hypomania, and not severe mania. This is the most common bipolar diagnosis.

Rapid Cycling: (this also is included in my diagnosis) this is usually more an adjunct symptom, to the two subtypes of bipolar described the above. It means, over a 12-month period, an individual has more than four manic and depressive symptoms or episodes. Rapid cycling tends to be a lot more common in women.

Mixed State or Episode: (this as well is included in my diagnosis; which is why my Bipolar Disorder is SO severe) this term is defined during which symptoms of mania and depression occurs simultaneously. Mixed states are often the most dangerous period of mood disorders, the propensity to violence, suicide attempts, and other complications increase greatly.

During this phase for me, I can be crying and laughing at the same time. Coupled with rapid cycling my need at this time for hospitalization is at its highest.

Cyclothymia: This diagnosed usually given if an individual has some common bipolar disorder symptoms, which includes cyclical fluctuations in moods of mild or moderate depression and minor hypomania.

I hope I have helped some folks out there reading my blog and on my Facebook group page, with questions that have been presented. Folks out there please feel free to add comments, so that others can be educated.

Bipolar Betty


Anonymous said...

I too know people who have been misdiagnosed several times. I know several people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and re-diagnosed as bipolar several years later.

Because we can't empirically test for mental illness, the labels act more like a road map for doctors. That's why I've found it important to stay in contact with mine and always be totally honest about how my moods are.

Chemicals in your body and brain will alter over time as well, meaning that this year's meds might not work so well for you in two years time.

A Piece of My Mind said...

Thanks for sharing!! I do agree after a while i noticed my meds are not as powerful and need to be changed!!

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