Why is Bipolar Disorder Difficult to Diagnose?

Bipolar Disorder Type II is especially difficult to accurately diagnose due to difficulty differentiating it from recurrent unipolar depression (recurrent depressive episodes). Learn more about why it can be so difficult.

Why is Bipolar Disorder Difficult to Diagnose?

Bipolar disorder type II is especially difficult to accurately diagnose due to the difficulty in differentiating it from recurrent unipolar depression (recurrent depressive episodes) in depressed patients.

Bipolar disorder

is a costly and disabling disease, and patients with this condition may be misdiagnosed with another condition at their initial presentation. The main challenges to an accurate diagnosis include difficulties in differentiating bipolar depression from unipolar depression, the significant heterogeneity between different patients with bipolar disorder, and the high comorbidity of bipolar disorder with substance use and other psychiatric diagnoses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), doctors and clinicians should be aware of the difficulty in diagnosing a patient with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar patients often have other diseases or comorbidities, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), eating disorder, or substance abuse. These other disorders may occur more prominently than a manic episode and divert attention from the root cause. In addition, bipolar disorder may have several symptoms in common with schizophrenia, but there are very clear differences between the two. Andrew Cutler, medical director of Meridien Research, has studied the causes of bipolar disorder and many of the comorbid diseases and disorders associated with it.

He believes in lengthy evaluations to correctly diagnose a patient, and that gathering specific details about patients' psychosocial history allows for a more comprehensive view of their health. Diagnosis and treatment are essential for patients with bipolar disorder, because of the adverse effects that mood episodes can cause. Cutler believes that patients should undergo management of the disease state, finding and adhering to appropriate treatments, which can slow or stop the progression of brain damage. Research suggests that bipolar disorder has the same frequency in teens as it does in adults.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an early-onset bipolar diagnosis for adolescent and prepubertal children is very difficult, due to their age and symptoms. Usually discarded as typical adolescent behavior, bipolar children have dramatic and unpredictable mood cycles; however, unlike adults, their mood swings are more frequent. Andrew Cutler is currently involved in multiple studies on bipolar disorder in adults and adolescents. Each study has different objectives and timelines.

Meridien Research is dedicated to helping patients with bipolar disorder. Our studies focus on the latest research-supported therapies and the goal is to work with pharmaceutical companies to find interventions that regulate brain function. Someone can seek mental health support while in the midst of a depressive episode, which can lead to a diagnosis of depression, rather than bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they are depressed than when they are manic.

As a result, up to two-thirds of people with bipolar disorder are initially misdiagnosed with major depression. It can take 5 to 10 years to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. In addition to scales, research has found that observed symptoms are useful tools when evaluating a patient's bipolarity. Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that involves moods that change between mania and depression.

Economically, misdiagnosis of bipolar disease has been reported to result not only in higher treatment costs, but also in lost workdays and productivity for these patients. MDQ has been found to have good sensitivity (about 70%) and very good specificity (about 90%) for diagnosing bipolar disorder. Another factor has to do with bipolar disorder sharing some symptoms with other diseases, such as borderline personality disorder, a condition characterized by impulsive behavior and problems related to other people. Sometimes, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can contribute to the time it takes to be diagnosed.

Previous Zimmerman studies suggested that bipolar disorder is often diagnosed in people who do not have the condition. Several manic symptoms of bipolar disorder and ADHD resemble each other, often leading to misdiagnoses. The controversy surrounding the diagnosis of bipolar disorder became evident in the 1950s when Congress refused to recognize manic depression as a legitimate illness. Most people living with bipolar disorder experience manic episodes (high) and depressive episodes (low).

If you or a loved one is living with bipolar disorder, feel free to contact our team at 941-756-8680 today.

Cassandra Laudat
Cassandra Laudat

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