If you have been diagnosed with depression and have engaged in treatment with no relief, it may be time to discuss the possibility of bipolar disorder with your mental health professional. The fluctuating symptoms of bipolar disorder can be easily misdiagnosed as depression.
Be Candid About Your Behavior
You may only keep mental health appointments or seek treatment when you feel depressed or suicidal. This can make bipolar disorder more difficult to diagnose. Think about your behavior and patterns you may notice. You may notice your depression suddenly remits and you experience episodes where you feel on top of the world. Bipolar disorder does not always present as fluctuations between depression and mania. You may experience mood fluctuations that leave you severely irritable and agitated or you may experience both depression and agitation at the same time.
Ask Those Around You
If family or friends do not know about your mental health, you can discreetly ask them about your behavior or if they notice any changes. Many times, the people closest to you are better at noticing your fluctuating mood because they are around your more often. Sometimes the people around you may be afraid to confront you with behavioral changes because they are concerned you will be offended or upset. Behavioral changes that may be noticed by the people around you might include sudden spending sprees or erratic relationships with romantic partners.
Consider Your Treatment History
You may have a long history of depression treatment without adequate symptom relief. It is common for people misdiagnosed with depression to try several medications within each class of antidepressants before arriving at the proper diagnosis. You might also notice that treatment with antidepressants sends you in an unusual mood state. You may feel more euphoric than usual, which can easily be mistaken as an effective treatment or you might become suicidal. A sudden mood change with antidepressant monotherapy is another warning sign of bipolar disorder.
Identify Atypical Depression
Although depression can have a range of symptoms, in atypical depression, you might sleep or eat more than usual. Having atypical depression does not guarantee you have bipolar disorder. However, it is more common for people with bipolar disorder to have atypical depression. The acknowledgement of atypical depression in bipolar disorder can also affect your treatment approach. You may have better symptom relief with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in conjunction with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic than using reuptake inhibitors as part of combination therapy.
Bipolar disorder can be an elusive mental illness to diagnose because it often resembles other mental illnesses. Being honest about both the good and bad symptoms and having close friends or family who can speak on your behalf can increase your chances of a proper diagnosis sooner.
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