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How to Know If You are Bipolar...Do This Sound Bipolar to You?


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Greetings... brand new here, and sorry in advance this is so long. :D

I have been told by two different psychologists that I might be bipolar.

One was over the phone after speaking with me for five minutes. The other one was during my one and only visit with him recently.

Now, some background: Two years ago, I saw a very competent psychologist (Russian, brilliant, left my area to do research at Brown U.) for over a year and he never even mentioned any possibility that I might be bipolar. The reason I spoke with the two psychologists recently was because I have been depressed over a medical condition that is causing chronic pain.

The one on the phone said she thought I was bipolar because I exhibited pressured speech when I spoke. The other one offered no specific reason why he thought I might have it.

The curious thing is, after this second therapist stated he thought I might have it, I went online and took several self-assessments for bipolar disorder and scored very low on all of them. One said I had no risk of having it based on my answers and the others stated little to no risk.

Also, I have suffered all of my life from OCD (this was why I was seeing the Russian) and I read on one web site that if one suffers from OCD AND bipolar disorder, the bipolar symptoms tend to be much more severe. For the record, I do also suffer from anger management issues.

What I do not ever experience is racing thoughts, periods where I need or want less sleep than usual, feelings of euphoria, grandiose feelings or feelings of over-confidence, drinking or spending binges, or any of the other major, classic symptoms of mania. When I talked to the psychologist over the phone, I was very eager to tell her my entire health history relating to the onset of the problems I have been experiencing, and that is why I began talking quickly. I am assuming this is why she stated my speech was pressured.

Just to be clear, I am not at all opposed to any diagnosis including bipolar disorder -- it is what it is and it's certainly not something I can control having. It simply bothers me that these professionals are so quick to state that I have (or, in fairness, they believe I have) a very serious mental illness/ condition without giving me any diagnostic tests or assessments and with so little for them to go on. Also, I have read that bipolar disorder is notoriously difficult for doctors and therapists to diagnose, which makes these quick diagnoses even more troubling; psychologists should be extra cautious precisely because of the high rate of misdiagnosis that comes with the disorder.

Yes, I have bouts of anger, I have a quick fuse, have lost my cool in public on occasion (maybe once a year) when frustrated and have a temper, but my sleep is always 8 hours a night and until my medical problems began (I have always been healthy up til now), I never had any bouts of depression beyond the occasional feeling a little blue. For example, I've never had any depression that kept me in bed or changed my diet or sleeping habits.

The therapist I saw in person theorized my pain and symptoms are actually a manifestation of mania, which I find highly unlikely and even stated so during the session. Why then, I asked, would I have not always had this pain? He said perhaps it was sub-clinical prior to the onset of my pain. I then asked him why now.... what would suddenly make my bipolar disorder go from sub-clinical to clinical? He said he couldn't say, perhaps stress. In any case, my pain was really bad throughout this weekend, yet I had no racing thoughts, no desire to even leave the house let alone engage in any risky behavior or start a business, I had no fights with family, and slept my standard eight hours. If my pain was a manifestation of mania, wouldn't I have had some kind of manic symptoms? Something, anything out of the ordinary? Instead, my mood was exactly as it had been for weeks of on-and-off pain....depressed because the pain always comes back which affects my work.

Furthermore, my friends and family have all scoffed at the notion that I am bipolar. My mom thinks I am carrying on too much about the whole thing. She keeps telling me to forget about it, but that is easier said than done. I keep reminding her that it's their job to know these things after nine years of school and many clinical hours. No one at work, thinks I am bipolar, either. Some of my friends are pretty straightforward, and one girl at work is downright blunt, and they all have all said "no."

So, my question is: even though I took several self-assessments online and they all scored me low risk for bipolar, and even though I appear not to have any symptoms of mania, with the (possible) exception of bouts of anger (yes, I do get angry but in my opinion this points more towards anger management issues or some other personality disorder), could I still be bipolar? I realize no one participating in this forum is going to be able to answer this definitively, but being told by not one but two psychologist that I might be bipolar is clearly not something I can just brush off, and any input or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

I hope readers on here can appreciate how confused I am based on my circumstances. If I had scored high on the self-assessments, I would already be looking into meds and not questioning this. And again, I hope this doesn't read as someone desperately not wanting to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I simply want a proper diagnosis and/ or to rule out various diagnoses so that I can get the help I need. I readily admit I have psychological issues that need to be addressed. I'm just not certain bipolar disorder is one of them.

Thanks for any replies.

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I understand your confusion, as I exhibited none of the typical (type I) Bipolar traits. But some of the Bipolar II traits made sense and I think the meds I've been on have supported this diagnosis.

We can't diagnose you here in this forum. Are you currently seeing a therapist? If not, I encourage you to find one with whom you can connect and let him/her begin a proper assessment and treatment (if necessary). Online assessments can give insight, but they are not a real diagnostic tool (it's a bit like doing an online cancer test).

Good Luck!

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Self assessments online really mean next to nothing. Psychologists rarely use formal tests in diagnosing. If you'd like an assessment from a therapist who knows you better, you'll have to wait until you've had more than onmeeting.

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Just to be clear, I am not at all opposed to any diagnosis including bipolar disorder -- it is what it is and it's certainly not something I can control having. It simply bothers me that these professionals are so quick to state that I have (or, in fairness, they believe I have) a very serious mental illness/ condition without giving me any diagnostic tests or assessments and with so little for them to go on

There are not any diagnostic tests (medical) for MI. Diagnosis is done by history, symptoms, and observation of behavior.

nf

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At the risk of sounding like your mother, I think you need to take a deep breath and calm down. I would forget about any possible diagnosis floated out after a 5 minute phone call with a stranger.

Chronic pain can affect personality. An also medication for chronic pain can affect mood and behavior. Losing your temper once a year does NOT mean very much.

You consistently sleep 8 hours a night (except for during pain), you have never had a serious depression, and you state than you have not had symptoms of mania. That does not sound very bipolar to me. But obviously I am just a stranger on the internet. The psychologist you saw for one year did not think you were bipolar. He is the practioner who knows you. Not the stranger on the phone, or someone whom you saw once.

If you want to get a serious opinion then I would schedule an initial appointment with a psychiatrist. And the doctor may want to see you more than once. I have no idea whether you are bp, or not. But obviously you are concerned and upset. I think you need to see a doctor as much to rule this out so you can let go of this concern.

Does your OCD involve obsessing on thoughts and fears? Do you ruminate? Seeing a psychiatrist could also help your OCD because there is medication for that condition, in addition to specific therapy for ocd.

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I understand your concern, and I would be very skeptical of any snap diagnosis made by a psychologist or therapist with whom I did not have at least some kind of an extended relationship. You are right to be skeptical. I suggest that you see a psychiatrist and also establish an ongoing relationship with a therapist who can get to know you and diagnose you accurately.

I do not mean to say that you don't have bipolar. You may have it because sometimes in manifests itself in non-classic symptoms. It's just that you need to be diagnosed by someone who knows you.

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Hey thanks guys... my mom has a good friend whose son is a psychiatrist and he's going to try to dig up some recommendations for me. In my area, psychiatrists tend to be 'scirpt writers more than therapists, so I'm hoping I can find someone who will be willing to invest some time in evaluating me as opposed to reaching for the pad, as a diagnosis for this sounds a bit labor intensive. I did read during my online perusing on BpD that researchers are inching closer to a blood test for it. While there definitely could be some drawbacks to such a test (privacy concerns, pre-employment screening, etc.), it would certainly make this process a lot easier.

So yeah, anyway, I really do appreciate the replies. :D And this forum is great. It was pretty random how I found it but I'm really happy I did.

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I just want to add that sometimes diagnoses can be way off, but if you feel any of it strikes home, look into online mood charting. It can't hurt to log your moods, meds, and circumstances for 3 to 6 months. Of course if things get too much before that, seek out your local MH services, and tell them what told us. They will help, but you have to be honest. We're here until then x

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Greetings... brand new here, and sorry in advance this is so long. :D

I have been told by two different psychologists that I might be bipolar.

One was over the phone after speaking with me for five minutes. The other one was during my one and only visit with him recently.

Now, some background: Two years ago, I saw a very competent psychologist (Russian, brilliant, left my area to do research at Brown U.) for over a year and he never even mentioned any possibility that I might be bipolar. The reason I spoke with the two psychologists recently was because I have been depressed over a medical condition that is causing chronic pain.

The one on the phone said she thought I was bipolar because I exhibited pressured speech when I spoke. The other one offered no specific reason why he thought I might have it.

The curious thing is, after this second therapist stated he thought I might have it, I went online and took several self-assessments for bipolar disorder and scored very low on all of them. One said I had no risk of having it based on my answers and the others stated little to no risk.

Also, I have suffered all of my life from OCD (this was why I was seeing the Russian) and I read on one web site that if one suffers from OCD AND bipolar disorder, the bipolar symptoms tend to be much more severe. For the record, I do also suffer from anger management issues.

What I do not ever experience is racing thoughts, periods where I need or want less sleep than usual, feelings of euphoria, grandiose feelings or feelings of over-confidence, drinking or spending binges, or any of the other major, classic symptoms of mania. When I talked to the psychologist over the phone, I was very eager to tell her my entire health history relating to the onset of the problems I have been experiencing, and that is why I began talking quickly. I am assuming this is why she stated my speech was pressured.

Just to be clear, I am not at all opposed to any diagnosis including bipolar disorder -- it is what it is and it's certainly not something I can control having. It simply bothers me that these professionals are so quick to state that I have (or, in fairness, they believe I have) a very serious mental illness/ condition without giving me any diagnostic tests or assessments and with so little for them to go on. Also, I have read that bipolar disorder is notoriously difficult for doctors and therapists to diagnose, which makes these quick diagnoses even more troubling; psychologists should be extra cautious precisely because of the high rate of misdiagnosis that comes with the disorder.

Yes, I have bouts of anger, I have a quick fuse, have lost my cool in public on occasion (maybe once a year) when frustrated and have a temper, but my sleep is always 8 hours a night and until my medical problems began (I have always been healthy up til now), I never had any bouts of depression beyond the occasional feeling a little blue. For example, I've never had any depression that kept me in bed or changed my diet or sleeping habits.

The therapist I saw in person theorized my pain and symptoms are actually a manifestation of mania, which I find highly unlikely and even stated so during the session. Why then, I asked, would I have not always had this pain? He said perhaps it was sub-clinical prior to the onset of my pain. I then asked him why now.... what would suddenly make my bipolar disorder go from sub-clinical to clinical? He said he couldn't say, perhaps stress. In any case, my pain was really bad throughout this weekend, yet I had no racing thoughts, no desire to even leave the house let alone engage in any risky behavior or start a business, I had no fights with family, and slept my standard eight hours. If my pain was a manifestation of mania, wouldn't I have had some kind of manic symptoms? Something, anything out of the ordinary? Instead, my mood was exactly as it had been for weeks of on-and-off pain....depressed because the pain always comes back which affects my work.

Furthermore, my friends and family have all scoffed at the notion that I am bipolar. My mom thinks I am carrying on too much about the whole thing. She keeps telling me to forget about it, but that is easier said than done. I keep reminding her that it's their job to know these things after nine years of school and many clinical hours. No one at work, thinks I am bipolar, either. Some of my friends are pretty straightforward, and one girl at work is downright blunt, and they all have all said "no."

So, my question is: even though I took several self-assessments online and they all scored me low risk for bipolar, and even though I appear not to have any symptoms of mania, with the (possible) exception of bouts of anger (yes, I do get angry but in my opinion this points more towards anger management issues or some other personality disorder), could I still be bipolar? I realize no one participating in this forum is going to be able to answer this definitively, but being told by not one but two psychologist that I might be bipolar is clearly not something I can just brush off, and any input or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

I hope readers on here can appreciate how confused I am based on my circumstances. If I had scored high on the self-assessments, I would already be looking into meds and not questioning this. And again, I hope this doesn't read as someone desperately not wanting to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I simply want a proper diagnosis and/ or to rule out various diagnoses so that I can get the help I need. I readily admit I have psychological issues that need to be addressed. I'm just not certain bipolar disorder is one of them.

Thanks for any replies.

Ha ha, "pressured speech". At $250/hrs an hour or whatever maybe you were just trying to get your money's worth.

I've pretty much stopped working full time because work is so difficult. If you do have chronic pain there is a great book I'm reading called "Finding a joyful life in the heart of pain". It has some interesting takes on pain and how it affects our thinking and lives.

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Psychiatrists ("pdocs" on the boards) are not really considered therapists (tdocs), and their job is mainly to give prescriptions, so you are going to have difficulty finding a psychiatrist who does therapy. They exist, but are rare. I actually did have one who was a good therapist, but she sucked at medicating, and I was very unstable the whole time I saw her.

Psychologists, MSSWs, therapists, counselors, they are the ones that supply emotional and functional support.

I agree with your assessment pretty much. It does seem like it might be a bit of a leap to say you are BP. It is always possible, I suppose. *shrug*

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Just to be clear, I am not at all opposed to any diagnosis including bipolar disorder -- it is what it is and it's certainly not something I can control having. It simply bothers me that these professionals are so quick to state that I have (or, in fairness, they believe I have) a very serious mental illness/ condition without giving me any diagnostic tests or assessments and with so little for them to go on

There are not any diagnostic tests (medical) for MI. Diagnosis is done by history, symptoms, and observation of behavior.

nf

Well, there are things like the MMPI, and assorted mood scales and things.

Hey thanks guys... my mom has a good friend whose son is a psychiatrist and he's going to try to dig up some recommendations for me. In my area, psychiatrists tend to be 'scirpt writers more than therapists, so I'm hoping I can find someone who will be willing to invest some time in evaluating me as opposed to reaching for the pad, as a diagnosis for this sounds a bit labor intensive. I did read during my online perusing on BpD that researchers are inching closer to a blood test for it. While there definitely could be some drawbacks to such a test (privacy concerns, pre-employment screening, etc.), it would certainly make this process a lot easier.

So yeah, anyway, I really do appreciate the replies. :D And this forum is great. It was pretty random how I found it but I'm really happy I did.

If you want a therapist, you need a therapist, not a psychiatrist.

I would be shocked if there was any remote possiblity of a blood test for bipolar disorder, um... ever. Certainly not anytime soon.

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Okay, so the psychologist I saw recommended I be seen by a psychiatrist for a positive diagnosis of BpD. And from what I'm gathering, a diagnosis involves some time/ investment in the patient. So my question now is, even though most psychiatrists do not see patients for talk therapy, do they see patients regularly to discuss meds, sufficiently to make a well-informed diagnosis?

And what if I do not end up on any meds? I tried Zoloft but the side effects were really troublesome for me. Currently, I am not on any meds, so minus taking meds to monitor, it sounds as if I am not going to be seeing a psychiatrist on any kind of regular basis. So I guess I'm confused if I will even be around a psychiastrist long enough for him or her to id me properly. Also, I was curious why the psychologist, with two PhD diplomas (genuine, I assume) from the University of Illinois hanging on his wall (not a school to exactly sneeze at) was referring me to a psychiatrist. Shouldn't a psychologist be qualified to make a well-informed and reliable diagnosis as well (even if it might take a few sessions)? I read during my online research odyssey that people with, or perceived to have, bipolar disorder are often discriminated against in the medical community, and perhaps this guy just didn't want to deal with me, thinking I have it...who knows.

I really miss my Russian guy. I know it's cliche to put your psychologist/ psychiatrist on a pedastal, but he was really fantastic. After him, the psychologists I have tried have all been so shoddy in comparison. The year + period I was seen by him was in many ways the happiest period of my life thus far.

Again, thanks for helping me out guys. This forum is seriously the best. :D

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There is nothing unusual about a psychologist referring you to psychiatrist for a BP diagnosis. After all, it is a biological medical condition. Just go do it, get it over with. The amount of time a good doctor will spend on an assessment and diagnosis is totally different than a medication management appointment with an existing patient. The front office should be able to answer your questions about the length of the appointment. And it might take more than one appointment.

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It took a lot of years of being told I had major depressive disorder before a pdoc finally clued in and diagnosed me with BP after 4 weeks of assessment. Trouble is, he didn't tell me about the dx, just prescribed yet another antidepressant and Seroquel. I was shocked when I found out that Seroquel is an antipsychotic; he told me he was just prescribing it for my insomnia.

It took a meltdown in a rehab facility (I had been self-medicating with alcohol and my symptoms came back after I sobered up) before I was referred to a pdoc who had me fill out a mood diary for 2 months. That was when I was formally diagnosed. Now I am being treated by another pdoc who prescribes and monitors my meds, along with a MSW who counsels me on how to live with this disorder. I'm also in treatment for my anxiety and my BP tendency to ruminate (make mountains out of molehills).

My only advice is to be patient and to fill out a mood diary every day for at least a couple of months, even if the pdoc doesn't ask for it you can still give it to them. It's a good way to gauge whether you're having mood swings. Also I'd be hesitant to take the word of any pdoc who doesn't take the time to get to know you - several appointments at least. If your doc isn't willing to take the time, then find another one if possible.

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Just to be clear, I am not at all opposed to any diagnosis including bipolar disorder -- it is what it is and it's certainly not something I can control having. It simply bothers me that these professionals are so quick to state that I have (or, in fairness, they believe I have) a very serious mental illness/ condition without giving me any diagnostic tests or assessments and with so little for them to go on

There are not any diagnostic tests (medical) for MI. Diagnosis is done by history, symptoms, and observation of behavior.

nf

Well, there are things like the MMPI, and assorted mood scales and things.

By medical I mean blood tests, scans, ect. Not paper and pencil tests.

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