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Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis: A Difficult Situation

Jun 2, 2008
It is difficult to detect Bipolar disorder. Some people are diagnosed after having the disorder for more than ten years. The dual nature of the disorder is the reason for this delay. When a person is feeling manic or hypo manic, he feels good and is energetic. Only when he falls into a major depression he seeks treatment.

So when he visits the doctor and describes his symptoms they are only the depressive symptoms. As a result, the doctor commonly diagnoses him with depression instead of bipolar disorder. This mistake occurs frequently, also because bipolar disorder shares common symptoms with psychiatric illnesses like anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. This leads to a complication in the diagnosis.

It is also not possible to detect bipolar disorder through a laboratory test. There is a questionnaire called the Mood Disorder Questionnaire which can help a doctor to come to a correct diagnosis.

A diagnostic exam for bipolar disorder consists of a complete psychiatric history as well as a complete medical history and physical exam of the patient. This disorder is characterized by both extremes of mood, which is mania and depression. Hence the current symptoms must be those of mania or hypomania for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

It is extremely important that diagnosis is early and treatment should also be as early as possible. Most people who are suffering from bipolar disorder are not aware of the fact that they have the illness. So, if the diagnosis and treatment is carried out as early as possible, it can avoid some major risks like suicide, alcohol and substance abuse, problems at school and falling out at school, divorce, not being able to function at work and distancing oneself from friends and family.

As soon as a patient is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he can start his treatment. There are three phases or parts of the treatment which include medication, psychotherapy and group support, and lastly education.

The main symptom of bipolar disorder is mood swings of depression and mania. It can feature mixed episodes, rapid cycling, psychotic features and other complications. Another serious issue diagnosed with this disorder is suicide. The doctors today are familiar with many symptoms associated with early onset of bipolar disorder in children, which can help them towards an early diagnosis.

Nevertheless bipolar disorder diagnosis is not as easy as diagnosing a cold or diabetes. The doctor has to take time and make a careful analysis of the patient's mental, medical and family history.

After the analysis it may still be difficult to recognize the manic and the depressive episodes, and if no physical cause is found, the current symptoms and their significant duration would play the most important role in the correct diagnosis. If the current symptoms are actually causing significant impairment in functioning, a patient can then be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

If you ask anybody who has suffered from bipolar disorder about how they were diagnosed, you will hear about the long and difficult journey that they went through. Some patients may have gone through wrong decisions taken by the doctor, wrong diagnoses and numerous dead ends.
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