Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On The Road to Treatment: Figuring Out As Quickly As Possible If One Is Bipolar

Bipolar disorder affects at least 1 in 70 people. Bipolar disorder can start as early as adolescence, or as late as the fifties.

One difficulty can be diagnosis of bipolar disorder in adolescence. What adolescent doesn’t have raging hormones? Looking back, of course I cried when the person I liked starting dating someone else, or broke up with me for no reason. On the other hand, the backstabbing friend that starts spreading rumors. I think as a girl, these can tend to be normal or common reactions.  Alternatively, what about about the moodiness, as a boy, and dealing with the raging hormones, resulting in anger.

The National Institute of Mental Health conducted studies on mental illness, and concluded that 48% of all adults in the United States will at some point in their life will have a diagnosis if a mental illness. Although this is only one study, it really surprised me how high this statistics is! Like me, many individuals will be diagnosed with multiple psychiatric disorders, which usually referred to as “co-morbidity or co-occurrence.”

It is not uncommon for those who eventually are diagnosed with a mental illness, to initially try to grin and bear it, and try to “deal” with it on their own. Sadly this rarely works. However, upon receiving treatment, the sense of relief is tremendous.

While it took my psychiatrist a few years to “officially” diagnosis me with bipolar disorder, statistically the onset age was accurate. Multiple research studies out there suggest the median age of onset is between 20 and 25 years. At the time of my first hospitalization, I was 23 years.

I have always wondered why it takes so long for the initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I think in my case it’s because my bipolar is mixed and rapid cycling, so if the doctor sees me depressed he or she would probably diagnosis me with major depression. Sometimes when I am so depressed, it is hard to see the ups at that point in time. In my opinion, diagnosing bipolar is becoming easier to spot and the gap between initial symptoms and diagnosis of bipolar is becoming smaller.

While receiving initial treatment is great, the next step is not so simple. It is at this point I find and continue to find the most difficult. Discussing the type of medication. When somebody is diagnosed with Bipolar or any other mood disorder, other issues concurrently might be diagnosed. There includes alcohol and substance abuse, ADHD, and an increased risk of suicide. These are the most common, but it is not unusual that there are also other co-morbid diseases.

Unfortunately, for me I have a SEVERE case of Bipolar I. My full diagnosis is Bipolar I, mixed state, ultra rapid cycling, with psychotic features. Yes, I know that is a mouthful. When psychiatrists look at mood disorders there are a number of “specific clusters” the doctor assess. This is just a brief description, but for me this was used to help aid in the diagnoses of my bipolar. I was not diagnosed with bipolar right away, which is not that uncommon. I presented initially with depression, than mania, and after 4 years of observation during hospitalization, my psychiatrist finally gave me the mood disorder diagnoses.

In a future blog, I will discuss in detail the more common symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

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