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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Doctor's Manic About Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

    About 5 years ago, I wrote a newsletter article expressing concern about the dramatic increase in the use of the Bipolar syndrome by psychiatrist. This issue wasn't just a local problem; other providers around the nation reported dramatic increases in Bipolar diagnosis.
    This trend in over-diagnosing Bipolar seems to be continuing. I attibute this problem of over-diagnosis to several factors, such as: (1) availability of information about Bipolar on the internet, (2) people engaging in self-diagnosis, (3) cultural competency problems between psychiatrists and their patients, (4) pharmaceutical corporations promoting the disorder and along with their medications for the disorder through commercial and print ads, and (5) medical doctors who work with pharmaceutical corporations who also promote the illness through books and studies.

Self-portrait drawn by a client during a manic episode.
True Bipolar disorder is a very severe mental health problem.
It should not be diagnosed after just one session. Misdiagnosis
can have life-long negative consequences.

   I still have clients who are told by their psychiatrist, that if they have a certain type of reaction to their SSRI medication, then they probably have Bipolar disorder. Some examples include children, teens or adults who became intensely irritable, moody, or euphoric while taking SSRI's and they were told that this indicates that they have Bipolar disorder.
   This allegation by psychiatrists is grossly incorrect. To be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, you have to have a Manic episode or a Hypomanic episode. You also have to have the episode while sober for a period of time - that is, you can't be intoxicated or using drugs or alcohol, including psychotropic medications which alter your brain chemistry, like SSRIs. It is very possible that any psychoactive substance that you take on a regular basis can yield Mania or manic-like sypmtoms.
    Taking an SSRI is not like eating salt or getting insulin shots. These pills do not "correct" a chemical imbalance anymore than taking Ecstacy or cocaine would correct a chemical imbalance. SSRI's are drugs that affect the chemistry in your brain in a manner that is not predictable by scientisits or medical doctors. Because sample sizes in studies are small or short-term, they cannot predict how these pills will effect you.
     You can read more about the problems with pharmaceuticals (not just antidepressants) in Dr. Ben Goldacre's new book and watch him discuss the problem briefly in this TED talk:

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Mental Health Disclaimer: The information included in this post and blog are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional mental health treatment or medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her mental health provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a mental health or medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a therapist-patient relationship.

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