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Diagnosis and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose.

The average bipolar patient will see three mental health professionals before getting the right diagnosis. In fact, one-third of bipolar patients will not be diagnosed with the disorder until more than 10 years after they first seek treatment.

There is a lot of similarity between the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, but that isn’t the only reason why it is so difficult to diagnose. Here are some of the complicating factors:

Bipolar Disorder PatientThe patient only talks about depression – as bipolar disorder is a condition that has periods of depression alternating with manic episodes, many patients present when they are depressed. This is particularly true when a patient seeks treatment for themselves. Manic patients feel good or at least energized and are unlikely to believe that anything is wrong. Either they feel terrific, or they are in a heightened “bad” mood – and likely to blame that on other people or life circumstances. Consequently when they first seek treatment – they only profess to the depression as that is most bothersome.

Bipolar disorder looks like anxiety – in actuality, many, if not most bipolar patients also have some type of anxiety disorder. Consequently it may be very difficult for mental health professional to root out bipolar disorder. If patients are seen as agitated, hyperactive or fidgety, they may be only asked about anxiety or given a self-rating scale for anxiety. This would immediately lead the practitioner to diagnose an anxiety disorder – unless careful investigations were done.

Substance abuse can be complicating the issue – many bipolar patients spend years self-treating with substances of abuse. This includes prescription medications, recreational drugs and alcohol. There is not any particular drug that is more often abused by bipolar people as a whole – some will choose alcohol, some will prefer stimulants, some will choose pain medications – all of which will mask the symptoms to some extent. In some cases, the substance abuse appears to be more problematic than anything else and in cases of addiction; the substance abuse must be treated before an accurate evaluation can occur.

Denial is very common – Denial is a nice way of saying dishonesty. That would be lying. This sounds very harsh but in many cases, bipolar patients will not be honest about difficulties that they have had. It may be subconscious dishonesty in that they, themselves do not really know what the problem is. Lack of awareness is common but outright denial is also common. Many bipolar patients absolutely refuse to accept the diagnosis when it is first presented – even after years of not being treated properly. Oddly, this may make it more likely that the practitioner believes that the patient has bipolar disorder but such outright denial delays treatment.

These are just a few of the reasons why bipolar disorder is so difficult to pin down and, unfortunately, delayed treatment can have huge life implicationsBipolar disorder is one of the riskiest psychiatric illnesses to have and can have severe consequences for the patient who is not properly diagnosed and medicated – including job losses, family disturbance, institutionalization, jail and even death.

Bipolar disorder affects not only the patient himself – but family and loved ones as well.

Why is it so difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder?

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

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Social anxiety disorder takes many forms.

It can be described as an inappropriately inflated sense of self-consciousness. In some people, social anxiety appears in their constant worries that others are watching them critically. In others, it can lead to situations where they simply refuse to engage in any social interaction.

Almost everyone is, on some level, familiar with depression, but social anxiety disorder does not get as much attention as other mental health problems. Fairly well known is also, anxiety, in the form of panic attacks and similar problems. Despite the fact that social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental health problem facing Americans, it still is not well understood by most people.

The quality of a person`s life can significantly be reduced by social anxiety disorder in its less severe form, and in its more extreme forms, the disorder can be almost entirely debilitating, rendering a person totally unable to interact with others.

There is no cure for social anxiety disorder. Unlike the better-known problems of depression and panic disorders, no medications developed show any significant ability to combat the problem. Those diagnosed with depression, or who suffer with panic attacks, may be able to relieve symptoms with prescription medications, but the person with social anxiety disorder has to rely on other treatment modalities.

The only form of treatment that has shown to provide any real substantive change among those with a social anxiety disorder is therapy based on a cognitive model. It is possible for someone saddled with this problem to improve his or her health markedly over time, by increasing awareness, learning coping skills, and retraining thought patterns. Research indicates that many sufferers begin to notice a significant improvement in their condition after a few dozen visits to a behavior therapist. Often, group therapy is an included part of the treatment regimen.

It should be noted that not everyone who worries what others think about him or her has an anxiety disorder. The problem arises when those concerns become too powerful and prevent the individual from engaging in otherwise desired interactions. It is quite common to have a bit of concern about what others might think of your new haircut. It is perfectly normal, to allow your mind to be overwhelmingly preoccupied with such consideration, or to let your worries interfere with your ability to function, in an appropriate manner.

If a person experience significant discomfort as lumps in your throat, fear, or unreasonable worry about social interactions, he or she may be experiencing an anxiety disorder and should seek the advice of a medical professional. The problem is treatable with cognitive therapy, and it is possible to live a life without the irrational nonstop worries and inabilities to interact that are hallmarks of social anxiety disorder.