Is Bipolar Over diagnosed?
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be concerned about how this is going to impact your ability to recover fully from addiction. You may also have heard that bipolar disorder tends to be over diagnosed, and that just by ending your addiction, it could lead to a huge improvement in your symptoms. In this article we will consider these issues.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar used to be referred to as ‘manic depression’, and this is still a term used commonly by the general public when talking about this condition. The old name referred to the fact that people with bipolar will usually experience periods of depression mixed with periods of mania. Here depression refers to more than just an experience of low mood – it is persistent intense state of low mood that prevents the person from functioning normally. The episodes of mania involve a dramatic swing in the opposite direction of depression and involve euphoria, delusions of grandeur, over-activity, and potentially dangerous behaviour (e.g. behaving recklessly).
Is Bipolar Disorder Over Diagnosed?
There have been studies that suggest bipolar disorder is significantly over diagnosed. The ‘bipolar’ label has been given to 2.6% of the population in the US (source: National Institute of Mental Health) and 2.5% of the population in the UK (source: Patient Info), but there seems to be little doubt that many of these people do not really fit the criteria. Research by Mark Zimmerman (2014) found that only 43.4 percent of the people in their study, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder completely, fit the criteria for this condition.
Why is Bipolar Disorder over Diagnosed
One of the most likely reasons for why bipolar disorder is over diagnosed is that doctors can be overly eager to apply this diagnosis. It is now such a common condition that it can appear like the easy answer to the symptoms a patient is describing. It is also easily possible to mistake temporary episodes of intense anxiety as part of a larger pattern indicating bipolar disorder.
It has also been suggested that the rapid increase in the medications available to treat bipolar disorder creates a bias towards diagnosing this condition. It is often the case that doctors only have a few minutes to reach a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan, and diagnosing bipolar disorder can be the easiest option.
Bipolar and Addiction Recovery
If you have a bipolar dual diagnosis (addiction along with bipolar disorder) you may be wondering how it will impact your ability to recover. There is a chance that your original symptoms were mostly due to substance abuse (this is particularly likely to be the case if you hid your addiction problems), and this may mean they will improve as you quit alcohol and drugs. If you have been correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it will be much easier to treat this condition now that you are in recovery.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process