Can't Rest Assured It's Bipolar
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Q:  Can't Rest Assured It's Bipolar

Dr. Plyler,

Almost all of my symptoms have occurred during periods of recreational drug use or while on medications, so I have little idea what is really going on with me and don't know how to find out. I have noticed that when psychiatrists are shown a diagnosis they sometimes turn their thinking caps off and assume it is correct. Several years ago my GP gave me an 8 question survey and diagnosed me bipolar on the basis of that and prescribed Lamictal. I was withdrawing from alprazolam and had recently ingested MDMA, which to my knowledge, could cause bipolar like symptoms. The entire process took all of 10 minutes. When I saw a psychiatrist and mentioned this he immediately went along with the  diagnosis after a few minutes of interview and rushed me off with more meds. I have since seen better doctors that have been willing to spend more time interviewing and assessing my signs and symptoms, but I run into this problem a lot. Even in the hospital, my attending psychiatrist saw me for 10   minutes each day. It all frustrates me and leads me to run in circles questioning both my treatment and diagnosis--especially since I do not exhibit a classic  bipolar disorder and barely fit the criteria in the DSM. Is it possible that someone without bipolar disorder would exhibit bipolar like signs as  a result of taking various medications prescribed for the condition (a typicals, lamictal, SSRIs)? I am pretty convinced I have bipolar, but without having had a period of being free of medications and recreational drugs, (I have  stopped those) I just can't rest assured.


 I was diagnosed bipolar after taking an 8



Incorrect diagnoses are a constant problem in dealing with bipolar illness.  A thorough history needs to be obtained including a family history.  Ongoing issues such as drug use, medical illnesses, and psychological stressors need to be accounted for before diagnosing someone with bipolar illness.  You have taken a good first step by stopping any recreational drug use. Next would be to begin tracking your mood using a program like Chronorecord and also talking to your family about any history of mood disorders.  Then find a psychiatrist who is familiar with or specializes in mood disorders and explain your situation.  Though bipolar illness can be difficult, appropriate treatment can make life much more manageable.

Dr. Plyler

 Published November, 2011


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