3 thoughts on “Misdiagnosing Bipolar Disorder as Anxiety

  • November 29, 2015 at 11:32 am

    This article gives one side of a situation IMHO.
    I needed to take stress leave this year and every time I saw my doctor she talked about this. Was I anxious? Yes. Did anxiety meds help? No, they were actually making me worse. Depression and anxiety are NOT always two sides of the same condition. Sometimes a person is just so stressed out, they cannot function in the situation they are in any longer. Sometimes somebody is depressed situational rather than chronically.
    Doctors need to stop medicating every person who walks into their office. Stop taking money from pharmaceutical companies because you have become a drug pusher.
    Anyway, I stopped taking drugs, got out of toxic situation and getting better. No thanks to my doctor, she only complicated things and actually made it worse.

  • December 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Cranky sadly you are right, that does happen. But the thing is, the opposite happens all too often. Where people who are seriously ill have their problems dismissed as either just situational or as a “personality disorder”.

    I am one of those people who does have bipolar, and unfortunately pregnancy and breastfeeding are huge biological triggers for me. In my most recent pregnancy, not only did I suffer severe depression, but I also had my first mixed episode, and also suffered from severe generalised anxiety for the first time ever. As I had been very well on medications since getting over my previous episode of PND 5 years earlier and being in a new city, I didn’t have a psych – just a good GP who had managed my meds and my mental health. When I became severely depressed, I got referred to a moron (a work colleague actually, as I work in mental health) who couldn’t diagnose anything correctly. And not just me – he diagnosed so many people with bipolar who just had difficult lives and had no biological mental illnesses, others he diagnosed as bipolar even though it was clearly obvious to everyone else the person had a personality disorder, while at the same time, other people who had long standing diagnoses of bipolar, he would take them off their medication and say they just needed talk therapy – and then wonder why they ended up attempting suicide not long after.

    The reality is, if a person is misdiagnosed as needing meds when they don’t, they rarely get worse other than a few annoying minor side effects. I’ve rarely met anyone who got worse on psych medications (and those who do get worse, their meds should have been reassessed immediately), but I do know it happens – I’m one of those people who has severe adverse reactions to a lot of medications (and not just psych ones – I have quite a number of meds that I’ve reacted very badly including anaphylactic reactions which are not fun). But I’ve met a LOT of people who did need to be on medications who didn’t get them or who were taken off ones they were on, and it nearly killed them. About five years ago now, a good friend of mine with bipolar died precisely because some idiot decided she just had a personality disorder and took her off her meds and she killed herself.

    It is safer to give someone meds for suspected bipolar than not give them meds – if the doctor is wrong, little harm is done usually by giving someone meds, but if a person does need meds and they are not given them, it can lead to great harm for the person. I know the damage done to me, losing 10 months of my life while my GP begged my new psych to change my meds (as my old ones had stopped working) and my new psych thinking my situation was “just stress” and pushing me to stop meds altogether. It wasn’t until I was finally able to get into see another psych who saw that my depression and anxiety was very biological and who changed my meds that was I was finally able to get well – and when they kicked in a few weeks later, literally overnight the change was immense. Even though my life stress has gotten a lot worse since, once the dosage of my new meds was adjusted to a good dose, I’ve been fine for the 18 months since. No depression, no generalised anxiety, and only a short episode of rebound mania after starting the new medication.

    Not being medicated for my biological bipolar depression nearly cost me my life – and it did cost me a lot of other things, such as missing out on the first few months of my baby’s life – I was there, looking after, but I have very little memory of anything in the 10 months I was unwell other than the bad things I went through during that time. So all the good moments with my baby are just not there in my memory.

    I understand your frustration at being made worse by meds, but not being put on meds (or more precisely having my meds changed) when I first got depressed the last time very nearly cost me my life and has done untold damage to my life – all of which could have been prevented if the psychiatrist I saw listened to the other health professionals in my life – my GP, my psychologist, the social worker I was seeing for emotional support through my antenatal clinic, the midwife I saw through the antenatal clinic, the psychologist I saw at the support group for mums with antenatal and postnatal depression and many others. But the psych wouldn’t listen to anyone (he never did). And while months after I got better from swapping psychs and starting new meds, he did apologise for misdiagnosing me, the damage to my life and my family’s lives was already done.

    Ultimately, the problem isn’t doctors pushing meds or withholding meds – the problem is arrogant doctors not diagnosing correctly in the first place! If they took the time to understand depression and anxiety and to work out whether it’s bipolar/MDD, a personality disorder or situational/stress, then there wouldn’t be problems with giving meds when not needed or not giving them when they are needed. I’m just sick of so called “experts” who don’t take the time to diagnose properly. And while a few have the decency to apologise afterwards like the one I used to see (although I’m sure he only apologised because I worked professionally with him, I doubt he would have if I were just some random client), most are so arrogant that they do not apologise ever for any reason.

    • May 16, 2018 at 11:01 am

      Thank you for writing about your experience Sela. I learned a lot from it. I hope you start your own blog one day, because you write well and most people know nearly nothing about psych drugs … including me, and I’ve been taking them for my own bipolar condition for several years now!

      I’m sorry you lost precious time with your child because your doctor was incompetent.


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