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I think I have Bipolar Disorder but I'm terrified about getting diagnosed

(14 Posts)
Abb27 Wed 25-May-16 01:15:19

I'm pretty certain that I have Bipolar disorder (most likely Bipolar II, maybe cyclothymia). I've felt like this for a long time and I work in a Psychology related field so I'm pretty clued up where mental health is concerned. My Dad has Bipolar, but it's much more severe in his case. I've always been afraid that I would eventually receive a diagnosis of bipolar as I've always felt emotionally unstable and misunderstood, even during childhood. It's sometimes hard to know if I truly have bipolar or if I've just convinced myself I do. I can relate to literally every hypomanic and depressive symptom (not full-blown mania though). I've had treatment for depression and social anxiety previously.

My question is this, will I regret seeking help? I know I shouldn't be so threatened by the stigma surrounding bipolar but I'm terrified that I'll be treated unfavourably in the long run. I worry that I'll have my driving license revoked, that I'll be forced to disclose it elsewhere and that I won't be taken seriously by my GP anymore. I'm also very worried that it may interfere with my ability to work with children.

I can't even imagine telling my family, I'm not sure I ever could. I think they'll contrast me to my Father and not be able to entertain the idea that I have bipolar. I believe that they would consider me completely stable in comparison to my Dad. I'm not sure they appreciate that symptoms can differ, also they live quite far away and I'm incredibly skilled at keeping my emotional problems between just my partner and I.

I've battled with whether I should pursue a diagnosis for so long and doubted myself endlessly. I certainly don't want to be made to feel like a fraud by my family. My partner is also convinced I have bipolar and has been for some time.

I just don't know how a diagnosis would affect my life. I realise it's the only way to get well in the long run, but I really need to be prepared for the consequences and I would appreciate some truly honest accounts of what to expect. My intention is to arrange an appointment with my GP in the next week, but any advice will really help in the mean time. Thank you.

bonnyscott Thu 26-May-16 21:16:15

I think you're being pretty hard I yourself to be honest! I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 last year and couldn't care less if I have a label or not - I just want to feel ok and able to control it......which I do through meds
I've not told anyone apart from my partner and family and haven't encountered any negative effects from anyone medical over the years until the last few months with a couple of uneducated bumbling idiots in obstetrics as I'm 6 months pregnant! X

Patchworkrainbow123 Thu 26-May-16 21:43:38

I personally wouldn't pursue a diagnosis unless you had to.

If you feel like your moods are becoming unmanageable or your experiencing mania/psychosis then definitely look into treatment.

I have a diagnosis of bipolar 2. Drugs have made no difference to my life. I found all they did was sedate me and make me less able to function. I received my diagnosis after a major breakdown/hyper manic episode so had no choice. I have eventually become drug free and manage my moods in other way like meditation/diet etc.

I used to work in healthcare and as have found having the diagnosis made it very hard to get employment (if you disclose) I literally had to jump through hoops at occupational health to be signed off as fit to practice.

My best advice would be if you think your moods are having a profound effect on your life seek help. If not then I personally wouldn't

Abb27 Thu 26-May-16 23:31:45

It's such a dilemma. I appreciate both perspectives. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I've been feeling a little lost lately.

After thinking long and hard, I went to see the GP this morning. Unfortunately it didn't go particularly well. He was somewhat lacking in empathy. Quite dismissive. He seemed very inconvenienced by my problem. He offered me some medication and pretty much told me to go away. I asked (multiple times) to be referred to a psychiatrist. He was recommending an SSRI. I've had a different type before, and I responded very badly so I was quite reluctant to take it. I have some important events coming up in the next few weeks, and he recommended the medication as a 'short-term fix' to 'get me through'. I've been having CBT for anxiety, and he just said to carry on with that and that 'I'd be ok'.

I'm not actively pursuing a label of bipolar, I just don't want to be passed from pillar to post being made to feel as though my problems aren't legitimate. I eventually received a referral for an assessment from the primary mental health team (who will decide whether I get referred to a psychiatrist) but I left feeling incredibly emotional and embarrassed. Previous GPs I have had have been so supportive regarding mental health, but unfortunately I recently moved and this particular doctors has a reputation for being pretty awful to patients.

I left feeling like I had made a huge mistake and as though I should have just taken the medication to avoid having to actually receive a diagnosis. I came home quite confused but I phoned the Bipolar UK helpline, and received some really practical advice. They have made me feel better about the situation and guided me through how I could better express myself in future to avoid these types of negative interactions with healthcare providers. I'm going to be clear when I receive my assessment about what I feel is going on (some have told me to avoid making it sound like I've 'self-diagnosed', but it's impossible for me to sound naive about the condition and I don't know how to explain my experience without putting my symptoms in the context of bipolar). I've now been encouraged to make it clear however that I'm not actively pursuing a label of diagnosis, I just feel that I have a mood problem of some kind. I've been advised that many Psychiatrists don't feel it is necessary to actually label their patient bipolar, particularly when the symptoms are on the milder end of the spectrum (which mine definitely are), and also when the patient themselves actually doesn't feel that they would benefit from a diagnosis. In addition, I am in my early twenties, and that's another reason why apparently they are less likely to label you, they are more likely to just describe you as a patient with a mood disorder of some sort with the symptoms of x, y, z.

Thanks for the advice. I appreciate the honesty. I'm torn between what is the right thing to do, especially seeing as many people have had very different experiences. I really feel as though a lot of this is a reflection of the type of professional each individual has come across. My GP would have certainly put me off moving forward with pursuing treatment if I hadn't made the call to Bipolar UK afterwards. Here's hoping that I am more fortunate with the type of individual I come across when it comes to the primary/secondary mental health care teams.

Abb27 Thu 26-May-16 23:35:02

Bonneyscott: I would be interested to hear about how your bipolar/bipolar medication has affected your experiences in pregnancy if there were anything you felt comfortable sharing. My partner and I would like to try for a baby in the next few years or so, but at the moment my priority is becoming well and stable before I even entertain the idea!

Abb27 Thu 26-May-16 23:37:40

Patchworkrainbow123: thank you for being so honest. Do you feel as though you would have maybe been ok had you not have disclosed? Are you obliged to disclose at all? It's likely that I will be working in the NHS on the near future (possibly not), and it did concern me to some degree, however I have been advised by some that if you're concerned about becoming employed due to a mental health problem, the NHS is the best place for you as they are the most accommodating.

Room101isWhereIUsedToLive Thu 26-May-16 23:42:18

Your GP offering you ssri's was a bad move if you do have bipolar.
My psychiatrist thought about prescribing me an antidepressant but as they can trigger bouts of mania, he didn't.
As for having a diagnosis, it hasn't impacted on my day to day life, if I tell people, most just go 'oh' and that's the end of the conversation.

Abb27 Fri 27-May-16 00:43:49

That's good to hear. Thanks for the reassurance.

AnxiousMunchkin Fri 27-May-16 07:57:35

I'm in a similar pickle OP. I have been seeking support for anxiety/depression and have a long history of mental health concerns since late teens. My GP has said as much that given my history I could be diagnosable with bipolar 2, and there's a lot of obsessive compulsive traits as well. However after considering it on here and talking it through with my (excellent) GP we decided against pursuing a formal diagnosis- I just don't see what it would add for me at the moment. My GP is prescribing me medication that seems to be helping at the moment. I am accessing therapy through IAPT (just started level 3/high intensity CBT), focusing on function and specific issues/barriers to living my life. I don't need or want to access anything else at the moment so I don't need a diagnosis.

Things might change, that would mean I would accept a referral to secondary care pursuing a formal diagnosis; if I became more unwell, obviously; if it seemed like I might benefit from a medication change that my GP wanted a psych opinion/assessment for; or if my current strategies don't improve things for me and I am actively planning to ttc, which is not the case at the moment.

In your case I'd definitely look for a different GP. BipolarUK has support groups as well, I've looked into my local one but not plucked up the courage to go along yet. Their online community is good too. I honestly don't give a monkeys if a HCP thinks I've "self diagnosed" and has a problem with that - psych diagnoses are only ever opinions anyway, they are not hard and fast medical presentations and two people with the same diagnosis can present very differently. My mental health is my own concern, I know what I am experiencing better than anyone else does.

You're wondering whether you'd regret seeking help- what help do you want/feel you need? Do you need a formal diagnosis to access that? That would be my starting point flowers

Abb27 Fri 27-May-16 12:40:27

Thanks so much for the reply. I'm glad you feel that you are being supported by your gp. In all honesty, I think what I want is medication (I've spent a long time avoiding this but I am struggling to self-manage my mood). But I want it to be the right medication for my problem (I realise that this isn't always straightforward). I think had the gp been sympathetic and offerred medication, I probably would have taken it, but because he didn't take any time asking about my symptoms or medical history and he was quite dismissive, I didn't feel comfortable accepting medication which he considered as a short-term fix. He was very blasé about me potentially responding to the medication badly, as if we would just move onto the next without their being any consequences for my wellbeing (when previously, the consequences were very unhelpful for me when I was given another SSRI). I think I pushed for the referral because I wanted to get in contact with someone who would give me a proper assessment and potentially care a but more about my wellbeing. In this instance, I would accept recommendations more easily (although I think I might find it hard to accept if I were told I was ok and didn't require meds). Maybe I should have just gone to another gp before I pushed for a referral. I think I was under the impression that I needed to see a psychiatrist to get the most appropriate treatment/assessment. I'm full of self-doubt and constantly judging my personal interpretation of my symptoms and decisions that I have made. The whole experince with the GP has definitely left me in a worse state symptom-wise and it has all been very disheartening. Thanks for replying, but also, thanks for asking me what I want/need, you are the first person who has asked me that so far, and I am not sure whether I have actually stopped to ask myself that question until now.

Abb27 Fri 27-May-16 12:44:39

I should maybe have mentioned also that I have been having therapy for some time and I am also keen to continue with this, even if I need to pay privately for it. I've been engaging in self-help treatments for some time too and if anything, I feel my symptoms have gradually worsened which is why I am starting to become a but more pro-medication.

0GoldfishCrackers0 Fri 27-May-16 16:57:10

For me it was an absolute necessity getting the diagnosis, as I couldn't and cannot function without my medication.
Also, it was important for work. My colleagues don't know but my manager does, because I have to have a fair amount of time off sick because of bipolar, and the declaration of my diagnosis protects me due to the disability discrimination act.

Patchworkrainbow123 Fri 27-May-16 22:11:20

Hi Abb

Sorry to hear you've had a bad e perience with your Gp.

You don't have to disclose however if you don't then you can't recieve support.

I had too because I just couldn't do night shifts. As you are probably aware one of the most important things in treating bipolar is to have regular stable sleep pattern. I really don't want to come across as negative but I want to be honest. I found the nhs horrendous to work for with this diagnosis. Maybe if I had worked in mental health it would have been different but I was an adult general nurse and the lack of understanding of MH issues was shocking.

I suppose it depends on what you are wanting to achieve with a diagnosis. I didn't find meds at all useful and I tried many of them and many combinations. I did have a Cpn who I saw for about a year and she was amazing absolutely terrific support.

You can download a mood diary on line. It would be useful to fill it in before going to see the MH team. That could give them a picture of what's going on. I would definately avoid any type of SSRI's they often trigger mania. I was put on them and felt amazing, absolutely on top of the world for about 2 weeks and then my whole world came crashing down.

Mandatorymongoose Sat 28-May-16 22:39:30

I have a diagnosis of bipolar 1. I'm lucky in that my mood changes are often mild / moderate and very rarely off the scale unmanageable.

In real life terms, I tend not to mention it most of the time but I've never had anyone react badly. I declare it for occupational health but have never had a problem with this, usually I just get a phone call to check that it's well managed and that I can cope with the demands of the job. I've never asked for any adjustments though so I don't know how that would go.

I also declare it to the DVLA and have a 3 year restricted licence which is an annoyance but not a problem.

For what it's worth, I've tried all sorts of medications, including low dose antidepressants combined with a mood stabiliser or sometimes an antipsychotic. So antidepressants aren't 100% out.

Pregnancy I did with no medication, aside from some short term benzos when I was really struggling. I had more regular psych appointments to monitor both pre and post birth but actually I was mostly ok.

Sometimes it's worth getting a referral even if it is just to discuss medications rather than to get a formal diagnosis. GPs can be fab but they aren't specialised in mental health.

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