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How long did it take to be diagnosed as bipolar?


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I was just wondering if anyone could tell me their journey to being diagnosed as bipolar. It runs in my family (grandfather, mother, and some aunts have it) and I have been having mood swings that, as my therapist says are "bipolar in nature". I will be seeing a psychiatrist soon and having a full psych eval. Until then, could anyone give me some insight on their process? Thanks  ^_^

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It runs in my family too (my dad). Looking back, I can see that I was having BP mood swings throughout my adolescence, but they got worse as I progressed into my late teens. I was diagnosed with major depression when I was like 17, got prescribed an SSRI (I think it was Zoloft but I don't remember most of this time period very well), immediately went hypomanic and thought I was cured so I stopped taking it. Went up and down for a couple more years without going back to any doctors. By the time I was 19, right before my sophomore year of college, I was floridly and psychotically manic, and ended up in the ER. That's when I got the bipolar I diagnosis. Though it took me a while and a few more episodes before I accepted that the diagnosis was right.

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Bipolar also runs in my family. My sister and my aunt have it, and my great grandmother was permanently institutionalized for an unspecified mood disorder which I suspect was bipolar. 

 

I have been having depressions since I was 15, and looking back, I can see that I had hypomania as well, just the more dysphoric kind. I had a big hypomania when I was 20 that crashed into a mixed state and then the worst depression of my life by the time I was 21. That depression brought me to my GP, who gave me an SSRI. The SSRI did nothing at first. Then I'm pretty sure it made me mixed for a while. I finally saw a pdoc, and she dx'ed me with major depression. We tried many different drugs that did not work, and then finally I fessed up my hypomania to my pdoc (I thought it was just me acting normal). She then dx'ed me with bipolar disorder. Then, I became psychotic, which seemed to never end, and she diagnosed me with schizoaffective. 

 

So, it took a while for me to get the right diagnosis, about a year. But it takes many people WAY longer to get the proper diagnosis. 

 

Just be honest with the pdoc about your symptoms. Then you should get a proper diagnosis, whatever that may be. 

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I know for sure that my father's mother was bipolar and THINK that my mother's mother was also bipolar. There are plenty of MI issues in this family. That being said, I have an identical twin sister who does not SEEM to understand much of what I say about my symptoms, so either she doesn't have it and never will or it hasn't been triggered yet. Her chance, I read, is quite a bit lower than I thought it would be with me having it.

 

Uh, I can't remember not being some kind of mentally ill, I just thought it was normal until I had a baby at 21. That seemed to be when the shit REALLY hit the fan. Started seeing a GP, they thought it was anxiety, started with a p-doc about six months later, HE thought it was just anxiety even with my t-doc's constant insistence that there most certainly was a mood issue as well, but it's not as though she could diagnose me.

 

This was 2007-2009. In 2010, I was VERY depressed and ended up inpatient where I was diagnosed with BPII. My p-doc tossed that and said it was just anxiety until this time LAST year when I was very obviously hypomanic for a while and then I was properly diagnosed.

 

So from the start of treatment (I'll go all the way back to GP in 2007) it took five years for them to get it right.

 

That apparently is NOT a long wait from what I've read. So I guess I was lucky. I think that a lot of things that were OBVIOUS the entire time were overlooked and that angered me a bit when I finally did get the DX and shit started to fall into place. I realized I'd been having AND reporting these symptoms for five years and no one thought anything of it. That was weird.

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It's puzzling (and frustrating) to me why it can sometimes take SO long to get the correct diagnose. Especially for those of us who have it running so rampant within our families. I have a friend who was tossed around from therapist to psychiatrist and put on about a dozen medicines before she finally got properly diagnosed. I wish there was a an easier/better/less traumatic way for those of us going through it, but I guess at the end of the day a diagnosis that takes forever is better than not having one at all.

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With hindsight, I can very clearly see that there were problems going back to my early teens, but I didn't get any kind of formal treatment until 1999 (the year I turned 27).  From there it was nearly six years of hit and miss diagnoses (ADD, major depression, generalised anxiety, substance abuse) before I was finally diagnosed with bipolar at the beginning of 2005.  Even so, I only reached any kind of stability on a meds combo in early 2012.  So it's been a long and frustrating road.

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 I wasn't diagnosed with BP Disorder until I was 37.  I think partly because it was missed by my PCP who was managing my anti-d's and the different psychotherapists that I was seeing over the years. I had some serious anxiety and insomnia starting at age 14.  First major depressive episode at age 19.  Postpartum depression at ages 26 and 28 and various other mood cycling over the next 10 years.  Always having sleep issues   And yes, it runs in my family.  I have a brother that is 6 years younger than myself, has BP Disorder, currently unmedicated and his life is currently a hot mess.

 

The process of getting diagnosed for me. I had some major things happen to me in short period of time and was a mess.  Couldn't get it together.  Things were getting worse instead of better despite therapy and diligence with anti-d. My psychotherapist said I needed to get in with a pdoc.  Went to the one he referred me to.  They sent me a 6 page questionnaire to fill out before I came to the first appointment.  First appointment was 90 minutes long, pdoc asking questions and typing constantly, and going back and forth with my questionnaire. Then asking me to elaborate more.  At the end she looked at me and  said,  "You have Bipolar Disorder."  Then waited for a response from me. I just said, "That's what I thought.  It's a relief to have it confirmed."  After that, we talked about treatment plan.  I also had to bring a family member to the next 60 minute appointment so she could go over history with them and confirm / compare notes with what they said and what I said. And that is what it was like initially.

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It's puzzling (and frustrating) to me why it can sometimes take SO long to get the correct diagnose.

 

 In my case I believe it was a matter of my doctors viewing things in isolation and not considering the full picture  - ie I was depressed, therefore I must have MDD.  I was agitated, therefore I must have GAD.  I couldn't concentrate, therefore I must have ADD.  I was horribly addicted to opiates, therefore I must be an addict. I was cutting and burning myself, therefore I must be a self injurer.  Taken all together it shows someone who was cycling rapidly, incorrectly medicated and desperately trying to self-medicate in order to make the voices in her head shut the hell up.  I used to be very angry that it took me finally going over the edge and needing nearly 20 stitches for someone to refer me to a pdoc who finally got the diagnosis right, but I don't want to hold on to that.  I'd rather just move forward.  

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Well, I've been ill since I was 15 and I'm 40 now, and I still don't have a bipolar diagnosis, despite having clear and fairly classic episodes of depression and mania. At one point they considered I might have DID because I present so differently depending on the mood I'm in!

 

Not entirely the system's fault, because after seeing pdocs for a while in my teens I spent a long time avoiding them, but once I sought help again several  years ago no one actually sat down with me and talked with me about my history and full range of symptoms, until recently when I sought a second opinion - I'm waiting for the results of that. 

 

I know it won't make much difference to treatment, but it's still important to me. 

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It took ten years of treatment for me to be properly diagnosed as bipolar 1. I'd been misdiagnosed as MDD, dysthymic, cyclothymic, bipolar 2, and then when I finally landed in a hospital psychotic after a suicide attempt, bipolar 1. 

 

A big part of the reason I was misdiagnosed is that for a long time, I was able to drag myself through college (it took 6 years and a lot of dropped classes, plus a year off) and then to white collar jobs (lots of unexplained absences). I looked functional in my business suit at my lunchtime pdoc appointments, so my pdoc never put me on a mood stabilizer. I was high as a kite on Prozac for my last two years of college, able to bust out a 4.0 with little sleep, and stopped going to the pdoc and tdoc because I thought my depression was miraculously cured and this was the new me. I stopped taking Prozac a few years after graduating when I was frustrated by difficulty having an orgasm during my manic screwing around, then I crashed big time and landed back at the pdoc. Not one but TWO pdocs diagnosed me as bipolar 2 and then refused to prescribe a mood stabilizer because they both had a treatment philosophy that fewer meds were better and at that point, I'd never been (in their opinion) dangerously manic. This when I was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy from overspending in my mid-20s and after contracting HPV (although I didn't know about the STD yet) and telling the whole world about my sexual conquests and how brilliant and sexy and chosen by God for greatness I was. It is shocking to me how incompetent those pdocs were.

 

I landed IP and was finally put on lithium, which didn't work. My next pdoc, thank God, saw my symptoms for what they were, although he still wasn't sure if I was bp 1 or 2 (he didn't think it mattered much from a treatment standpoint since he basically prescribed the same meds for both conditions) and started tweaking my meds, and I ended up on anticonvulsants and AAPs. Then IP part 2, where I was unequivocally viewed as bp1, a dx that has remained ever since.

Edited by bookgirl
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I got diagnosed with ADD when I was 16, they put me on ritalin, but all it did was make me really sad. I used to go to a therapist, starting at the age of 12, but she never caught it, either. Finally, at the age of 19, I had an...incident, and they took me to the hospital. They found I was bipolar in 2 seconds flat (at least that's what it felt like). I filled out this questionaire, and then a doctor talked to me for a bit, and told me I was manic depressive (that was before it was bipolar, or it had just changed).

 

I remember one doctor I went to kindly said to me, "you must have been suffering a long time. You've probably had bipolar all your life."

 

I think it runs in my family, too. My maternal grandfather died in an asylum. He tried to kill my mother and grandmother, because he thought they were plotting against him. Prior to that, I'm unsure of family history.

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Much the same story as Hagar Running. I probably had my first manic episode at 14, but didn't tell anyone about it because it was weird. Diagnosed with depression and given SSRIs on and off for years. I've only had two what I would consider "real" manic episodes, otherwise I'm just morbidly mixed state. When I was 37, I got diagnosed with ADD, but the meds sent me into hypomania and that's when I finally got up the nerve to ask about the manic episodes I remembered having. So, all in all, a couple of decades. Some of that was practitioners only recognizing the depression-end of things. Some of it was me not being totally honest with them.

 

I have no one in my family who has every owned up to a diagnosis. Just not something they talk about. We do have "crazy" people though- relatives that people stick with that label. Judging from just behaviors I remember, it's coming from one side of my family- great-grandma, grandma (I would say this is a definate 'yes'), an aunt, and probably two of my first cousins have some level of bipolar. I know they medicated the hell out of my grandma for various reason- mainly anxiety, I think.

Edited by girlwiththefarawayeyes
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I'm adopted and this bipolar stuff didn't show itself fully until 2008, I was 24 then. It's been kind of a long ride (feeling-wise) since then and things have slowly changed to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar sub type. It took my first pdoc a long time to sort things out and come up with bipolar 2. I'd never heard of bipolar or schizoaffective when it all came around but learning everything I could about it was very helpful.

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I am 23 and was first diagnosed with bipolar II when I was 19. Then it was back to MDD. Then it was Mood Disorder NOS. then it was bipolar I. Now it's bipolar I w/ psychosis.

My journey has been very short, as you can see, compared to many other people's.

Bipolar disorder runs in my family as well.

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I was diagnosed with BPII earlier this year, and I'm currently twenty-seven. However, I was first diagnosed with major depression when I was seventeen. I had several more devastating depressive episodes in my early twenties, but I didn't have a full-blown hypomanic episode until I was twenty-five. I should have been diagnosed during my hypomanic episode, after all I was seeing a therapist, but I was too afraid she'd judge my hypersexuality, so I, uh, didn't tell her about it. Unsurprisingly, I was also afraid to tell her about the crushing anxiety I had when I crashed down.

 

When I moved to a new city and got a new therapist, I finally decided that honesty was the best policy and was immediately diagnosed. I guess all of this is to say: Learn from my mistake, and be completely honest with your new psychiatrist. And, if you can't be, find another one. It makes a huge difference.

 

So, I guess you could say it took me ten years to get the correct diagnosis. Hang in there!

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I was diagnosed with BPII earlier this year, and I'm currently twenty-seven. However, I was first diagnosed with major depression when I was seventeen. I had several more devastating depressive episodes in my early twenties, but I didn't have a full-blown hypomanic episode until I was twenty-five. I should have been diagnosed during my hypomanic episode, after all I was seeing a therapist, but I was too afraid she'd judge my hypersexuality, so I, uh, didn't tell her about it. Unsurprisingly, I was also afraid to tell her about the crushing anxiety I had when I crashed down.

 

When I moved to a new city and got a new therapist, I finally decided that honesty was the best policy and was immediately diagnosed. I guess all of this is to say: Learn from my mistake, and be completely honest with your new psychiatrist. And, if you can't be, find another one. It makes a huge difference.

 

So, I guess you could say it took me ten years to get the correct diagnosis. Hang in there!

I was about 15 when I started getting really depressed and I will be 27 next month as well. I'm hoping that with the combination of my meds, counselor, and psychiatrist I can finally get a diagnosis.

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When I was 14 I was put on Paxil, and taken off it due to side effects and mania.. ignored it until 16, got put on Effexor, same thing, so referred to a pdoc, diagnosed immediately with rapid cycling bipolar 1, put on Depakote. 

Then the cluserfuck begins. In and out of hospitals. Dx changed from BP to borderline to schizophrenic to schizoaffective.

Eventually, after a long observation and a side of ECT to get me out of a depressive episode, I was diagnosed by several psychiatrists and psychologists during a IP stay. I had been accepted on permanent disability at age 18-19, my doctor actually did all of the work for me, I was in a horrible mixed state in the hospital for 4 months, my first year in college. I had no idea until disability contacted me to come get my backpay. I would have ended up on disability at sometime regardless (as it covers my meds) but I was very thankful for that pdoc.

I've made leaps and bounds since then, but I still have my ups and downs. Thankfully, the ECT lowered my highs and heightened my lows. My dx still fluctuates at times, bipolar + schizotypal or bipolar with psychosis or schizoaffective?

It takes time and often more than one doctor.

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