Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part III

In all seriousness, I have wondered about the BPD diagnosis but in my mind, have somewhat fallen short. I don’t think my symptoms are strong enough to be plastered with a BPD label.

To conclude my several-post rambling, I should answer the question that I initially posed. Do I think bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed?


Many of my fellow bloggers will likely disagree with me. Zimmerman’s study at Rhode Island Hospital took into account whether those “diagnosed” with bipolar disorder had a family history of the diagnosis in the family. Maybe I’ve turned to the dark side. Just because I don’t have a family history of bipolar doesn’t mean that I can’t suffer
from the disorder. However, I have a family history of schizophrenia: one father and two aunts. Does this put me at a higher risk for schizophrenia? Definitely. Does this mean I could suffer from bp and have the schizo gene pass me by? You bet. I don’t think that I need a first-degree relative to suffer from bp to make me a classic diagnosis for bp.

For instance, when it comes to my physical appearance, I’m the only one on both sides of the family who suffers from severe eczema to the point where my dermatologist suggested a punch biopsy. Does that mean that I need to have a family history of eczema to obtain the malady? Not necessarily. Why is bipolar disorder any different?

I wasn’t diagnosed with bp until I was (nearly) 25. I began suffering from depressive symptoms since I was 12 and was clinically diagnosed with MDD when I was 14. I’ll try to get into childhood bipolar disorder in another post but basically, it took nearly 10 years for my diagnosis to shift from MDD to bp. (Ten years is the average number of years for people misdiagnosed with MDD to become diagnosed correctly with bp.) Has this made a significant difference when it came to meds? Absolutely. Do I think there are probably more people who need to be diagnosed with bp? It’s likely. Philip at Furious Seasons cites that bipolar disorder has a 2.2 percent prevalence among an estimated 7 million people while clinical depression has a 10 percent prevalance among 20 million people.

Perhaps “bipolar overawareness” or “bipolar overdiagnosis” is the result of doctors looking beyond stereotypical symptoms (eg, risky behavior) and seeing that many of the people who suffer from depression have a manic side to them as well. Out of all the doctors I’ve seen, only one doctor (my current psychiatrist) took the time to take a full intake of my history. Had previous doctors done the same, I might have been on a different path long ago.

I’m curious to know the rate of people diagnosed with MDD who have been shifted to bp as a result of overlooked symptoms. (Such as in my case.)

Bipolar overdiagnosis? No.
Bipolar overmedication? Definitely.

Depression is the real “overdiagnosed” problem:

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Dr. Ronald Dworkin tells the story of a woman who didn’t like the way her husband was handling the family finances. She wanted to start keeping the books herself but didn’t want to insult her husband.

The doctor suggested she try an antidepressant to make herself feel better.

She got the antidepressant, and she did feel better, said Dr. Dworkin. …” But in the meantime, Dworkin says, the woman’s husband led the family into financial ruin.

“Doctors are now medicating unhappiness,” said Dworkin. “Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives.” For Dworkin, the proof is in the statistics. According to a government study, antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. They’re prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or headaches.

Taking a pillSo, why aren’t we suggesting Depression Overawareness and Overmedication Week? Twenty million people with 10 percent prevalence is way more ridiculous in my book. Last year, the CDC said that antidepressants are the most prescribed drug in the U.S. An estimated 118 million antidepressants were prescribed to patients last year; compare that to the 113 million prescriptions for high blood pressure drugs. More people in this country suffer from clinical depression than have high blood pressure? I don’t buy that.

Antipsychotics may be more dangerous but they don’t come close to affecting the millions of people who are needlessly on antidepressants.

So I’m going against the grain and declaring next week Depression Overawareness and Overmedication Week. Join me if you so choose.

– end rant–

By the way, that rant made me feel a little bit better. Current Mood Rating: 6

One thought on “Thoughts on Bipolar Overawareness Week: Part III

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