Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder: Tricky

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder: Tricky

Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar Disorder seems to be on the rise. When I was initially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, “they”--whoever the forces that be--estimated that 1% of the population suffered from Bipolar Disorder. Now, the estimates are much higher. I’ve seen numbers claiming that 4-6% of adults have Bipolar Disorder. 


I don’t know if the numbers are the result of more correct Bipolar Disorder diagnoses, more false Bipolar Diagnoses, or some combination of the two. 

Lately, it seems that everyone and their mom has Bipolar Disorder. And while I want to support the Bipolar community, I don’t honestly believe that every Bipolar Disorder diagnoses is correct. 


I just don’t, mostly because Bipolar Disorder is not an easy thing to diagnose. The diagnoses for Bipolar Disorder are the result of what the person tells their psychiatrist about themselves. There isn’t a set Bipolar Disorder and that I’m aware of, there is no cat scan to determine who does and does not have Bipolar Disorder. Further complicating the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is the fact that there are so many different types of Bipolar Disorder, each with its own set of criteria, problems, and treatments. 


That said, there are some warning flags for Bipolar Disorder, which is passed on genetically. So, if you have a parent who has Bipolar Disorder or who suffers from unipolar depression, you are much more likely to have Bipolar Disorder than the population at large. Bipolar Disorder is often diagnosed in a person’s early 20”s, but the indicators can come earlier. 


In my case, the depression came before the mania. I was inexplicably depressed for much of my teens, but blamed it on my situation. Even though my uncle had already been diagnosed with Bipolar I, I wasn’t aware of the possible  genetic link which would explain my depression.


It wasn’t until an undereducated GP prescribed me Prozac in my 20’s that my Bipolar Disorder was diagnosed as the result of a truly manic episode. Because my uncle had already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was able to deal with my diagnosis well; in some ways, I felt totally relieved to know that there was a reason for my earlier depression and to understand why I was the way I was. 


My psychiatrist was able to diagnose me easily because I easily fit the criteria for a Bipolar I patient; not everyone has symptoms which fit so easily into a simple diagnosis, which makes it harder to diagnose. 


If you’ve been recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and aren’t sure that the diagnose is correct, save yourself a lifetime of prescription cocktails and get yourself a second opinion.