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Has anyone else been diagnosed for years with anxiety and depression when you actually have Bipolar?

(18 Posts)
HappiestMrsChicken Fri 21-Oct-16 16:43:56

I am 40 and for the past 25+ years I have been on and off antidepressants. I am on some at the moment and have been on this particular course of them for over 3 years now.

I have always felt very 'different' to other people (my childhood with abusive parents did not help but that's another story), and have had extreme paranoia, along with an inability at times to enjoy anything.

I do seem to swing from either a total delirious happiness to a total rock bottom where I have no interest in anything and every task is a major chore, whether it's making the bed, making a sandwich for the kids, or nipping to the local shop. When I am in a 'happy' mode I shop loads, and when I'm at rock bottom I get disproportionately worried about money and wish I was rich and get depressed because we are not rich! I am also impulsive at times and will do things on the spur of the moment such as sign up for a college course and then regret it within hours even though at the time it seemed like the only thing I wanted to do. Also when I am rock bottom I can't think with any clarity to have a conversation with anyone.

Anyway, to cut a long story short since bipolar has been in the media a lot over the past few years I have started to suspect I might have it but mentioned it to my GP a couple of years ago who just said no, I had depression.

However in recent months a new work colleague has started at my workplace. I sit next to him and we chat a lot and he has bipolar disorder. We chat a lot about our conditions and he has been an amazing source of support, and our symptoms are almost identical, and I became more convinced than ever that I have bipolar.

So I went to see a different GP at my surgery yesterday, a new GP there with a specialist interest in mental health. He was in agreement within a few minutes of me starting to explain my thoughts to him that it does sound 'very like bipolar', and has agreed to refer me to a psychiatrist but said it might be a wait.

I just wondered if anyone else has been misdiagnosed like this in the past? And how did you feel? I feel a real immense relief today that I actually may have 'something' and am not just totally abnormal and fucked up in the head, but on the other hand I feel a bit upset that I have spent 25 years feeling awful and on, effectively, the wrong treatment.

I would love some advice/experiences/reassurance please. Thanks :-)

HelloNormal Fri 21-Oct-16 16:51:15

This happened to me, except I'm now over a year into my college course and it's the best thing I've done in years. Hooray for overconfident, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Haven't really regretted it, although I've been convinced several times that I couldn't cope and would have to drop out (I did cope).

I got the diagnosis, got on a mood stabiliser (again - I'd been on them before and they worked, but had been off them a while), and feel a lot better.

You might not end up with a bipolar diagnosis but it's a good idea to get checked out by a psychiatrist, if you can, so you can try and work out what's going on with you, and get the best treatment for it. I've been diagnosed with a crapload of different things but to me, my current bipolar diagnosis seems like the best fit. Although I'd rather not be bipolar, TBH.

HappiestMrsChicken Fri 21-Oct-16 16:54:09

Hi HelloNormal, thank you so much for your reply! Glad you are enjoying your college course! I ended up getting a job in the end instead of going to college and really love it, still go through phases of wanting to apply to college again though!

Hope you don't mind me asking but what does the psychiatrist actually do to diagnose you? And do you take mood stabilisers alongside antidepressants or instead of? I hate having blood taken, it makes me panic and I'm already panicking at the thought of the psychiatrist having to take blood from me!

BeautyGoesToBenidorm Fri 21-Oct-16 17:00:42

Your abusive childhood makes me think that this could be borderline personality disorder - it can present an awful lot like bipolar disorder, and is a response to trauma in early life.

I have a dual diagnosis of both conditions, and I recognise a lot of the things you've talked about. It's good you're lined up to see a psychiatrist, it may take a while for them to reach a diagnosis, but I do wish you luck flowers

HappiestMrsChicken Fri 21-Oct-16 17:03:07

Thank you BeautyGoesToBenidorm, is there treatment available for borderline personality disorder? How long did it take a psychiatrist to reach your diagnosis? (sorry for all the questions!)

HelloNormal Fri 21-Oct-16 17:09:16

Psychiatrists talk to you, observe your behaviour and look at your notes to try and come to a diagnosis. It can take a while… (about fifteen years for me between seeing my first psychiatrist and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder grin)

I've been taking a mood stabiliser alone recently, but have just started an antidepressant alongside to try to deal with residual anxiety.

BeautyGoesToBenidorm Fri 21-Oct-16 17:09:59

There are various kinds of therapy - BPD often doesn't respond to medication, it's more about learning to rewire your own mind, to try and override the more abnormal emotional responses that people with the disorder can be prone to - I worded that quite clumsily, but I'm sure you know what I mean!

My diagnoses took a long time. I was very young (9) when I started to behave 'abnormally', and I was eventually diagnosed as bipolar when I was 18. I'm 32 now, and my BPD diagnosis (on top of bipolar) is only a few months old. I'm still very much learning to live with it.

HappiestMrsChicken Fri 21-Oct-16 17:13:53

Thank you both so much for the helpful replies, they are much appreciated.

I guess it's just a case of waiting until my psychiatrist appointment then and seeing what they say. Sorry for yet another question but can GPs prescribe mood stabilisers? I'm wondering if it might be worth asking my GP for some to have in the meantime as my mood has been low and to be blunt fucking awful lately!

devilinmyshoes Fri 21-Oct-16 17:16:56

I feel sort of the other way around a lot of the time, diagnosed with bipolar but think there are probably other, less 'psychiatric' explanations for much of what goes on with me. Childhood stuff, my temperament. But anyway I had an episode of hypomania and was hospitalised, out of area, where they asked me about bipolar but I'd never heard of it, moved to hospital nearer home started on lithium and an antipsychotic, but not very compliant, this led to a really severe depression (my one and only luckily) and antidepressants which really kicked everything off badly. My consultant didn't confirm the diagnosis until some time into treatment but I always felt if I had never tried antidepressants it would never have got so bad. I think some people just can't tolerate them.

I've had around six ? serious episodes of elation which sounds a lot against the lifetime average but it was really hard to knuckle down to treatment.

devilinmyshoes Fri 21-Oct-16 17:20:23

You need to see a psychiatrist really, there's technically only one mood stabiliser (effective against mania and depression) which is lithium but there are other drugs used in the same way but they will be either anticonvulsants or antipsychotics.

HappiestMrsChicken Fri 21-Oct-16 17:22:28

Oh gosh, devilinmyshoes you've really been through a tough time sad Hope you are ok at the moment!

My high and low periods seem to be quite short. I'd say in a typical month I have two weeks of highs and two weeks of lows. I'm at the end of a very low week at the moment but I can tell I am climbing higher, if that makes sense? A couple of days ago I could barely make conversation with anyone and now today I can't stop talking.

couchtofivek Fri 21-Oct-16 17:26:04

It was suggested to me that I had bipolar tendencies. It then became clear my ups and downs all tallied with my menstrual cycle! So yes, I do believe people are misdiagnosed all the time.

devilinmyshoes Fri 21-Oct-16 17:27:29

Classically bipolar episodes would be much longer than that but it is definitely something to discuss with a psychiatrist when you can.

I'm ok, it's definitely something that gets easier with age - for me anyway. Although haven't had the most stable year this year I did get a whole 5 years between major episodes which is awesome.

BeautyGoesToBenidorm Fri 21-Oct-16 17:36:32

My psychiatrist told me that lithium tends to be very much a last resort treatment these days, due to the availability of equally effective alternatives that don't knacker your kidneys. I hated lithium and was happy to be switched to an anticonvulsant (lamotrigine) that has very few side effects. Medication is such a lottery though - what's super effective for one person, won't do much for another. It takes a lot of tweaking.

A GP won't be able to prescribe a mood stabiliser without the authorisation of a psychiatrist - they certainly aren't allowed to in my area.

devilinmyshoes Fri 21-Oct-16 17:42:46

It should really be the first thing they try! Nothing yet is as effective but of course nothing else has been around quite as long.

BeautyGoesToBenidorm Fri 21-Oct-16 17:47:18

My psychiatrist has always been adamant that they try everything else before lithium - he quoted some figures at me about the significantly higher success rates they've had using alternative meds over lithium, and he's always been very cautious regarding its long term use due to its toxicity. It's interesting how it varies so much between this country's mental health services!

BeautyGoesToBenidorm Fri 21-Oct-16 17:53:06

Also, it's worth pointing out that lithium doesn't work for everyone - rapid cyclers especially don't seem to respond very well to it. I know I didn't. So it may be the most effective drug for some, but definitely not for all, or even most these days.

junebirthdaygirl Fri 21-Oct-16 18:29:03

There are different types of bipolar and changing every two weeks sounds like rapid cycling. My dh has bipolar diagnosed in his 40s.. He had never been treated for depression until then. He was put on antidepressants first and that was not good as it sent him into hypomania. He absolutely cannot take antidepressants. Even though he had never been treated foe depression and had a very successful career, in hindsight l can see that he was impulsive and got fed up of things very quickly. So he would be full of excitement at a new plan then a few weeks later have lost interest in it. Gradually as he got older that impulsive behaviour and depression which followed caused him more and more difficulties so he sought help. This resulted in his diagnosis. He now takes lithium and having tried other things it is the most successful.

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