Bipolar disorder often misdiagnosed

  • Deborah Condon

Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed and as a result those affected may not receive the treatment that they need, a consultant psychiatrist has warned.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a severe and chronic condition. Those affected experience sustained high moods, followed by periods of sustained low moods. High moods can see the person feeling elated and needing less sleep. Low moods can range from mild to severe depression. However, for months or even years, the person's mood can be otherwise normal.

One in every 100 people is affected.

According to Dr Paul Scully of St James's Hospital, ‘not infrequently, bipolar can be misdiagnosed as depression and, as a result, patients don't receive the treatment and support they need'.

"In some cases, the medication they are prescribed can worsen symptoms and can precipitate an affective episode, or can increase the frequency of major bipolar episodes," he explained.

Dr Scully made his comments at the launch of a new bipolar disorder campaign, 99 & Me, which aims to raise awareness of the condition in Ireland. Research carried out as part of this campaign found that among those with bipolar, just one in three were diagnosed by their GP, indicating a need for more understanding of the condition at primary care level.

Meanwhile, almost one in three people with the condition had to wait between two and three years to be diagnosed. Furthermore, while six in 10 people sought help via the public health system, more than one-third of these had to wait for at least three months to get an appointment with a psychiatrist.

"It is only through effective working between GPs, psychiatrists and community-based services that people with bipolar disorder can be appropriately supported,' Dr Scully commented.

The campaign, which is supported by Lundbeck, aims to tackle misunderstandings about the condition, to remove the stigma surrounding it and to encourage people to get the treatment they need as soon as possible.

For more information on the campaign, click here

For more information on depression in general, see our Depression Clinic here


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