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Bipolar? - March 8th 2013, 03:55 AM

Hi,

I'm 16 years old and I have been struggling with some mental health problems for the last 5 years. I originally thought what I had was only depression caused by the somewhat troubled family life I had as a child, but as things have been progressively worse over the past couple years (to the point I was recently hospitalized for suicidal thoughts), I have been starting to wonder if I may be dealing with something more serious. Since I've been looking more closely at the problems I have, I am wondering if I might be bipolar. I seem to fit a lot of the descriptions for it, and I definitely experience some manic periods although I think I more likely would have bipolar 2 since they are not as often as the depression. So what I am wondering, is how do I find out if I have bipolar or not? I have been seeing a psychologist for my depression, so I could bring it up with her, but I am just worried that she will think I am self-diagnosing and then won't take it seriously (doctors dont seem to like when patients try and figure out themselves whats wrong). So yeah any ideas would be great!
   
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Re: Bipolar? - March 8th 2013, 04:19 AM

As personalities, hormones, and lifestyles all affect moods, many doctors are hesitant to make any diagnosis of a long-term mental illness in children and teenagers, without family history and adequate clinical observation of symptoms.

The reasoning behind this is actually quite sound, because as a teenager, basically everything in your life is upside down anyway - whether it feels it or not. Your cognition and other less evolved parts of your brain are going through massive changes, and how you interpret the world is changing as a result of that too. You also have hormones in high levels that haven't settled down into the sort of patterns seen in an adult yet. As well as that, teenagers experience a large amount of social pressure and pressure from parents which alters how they experience the world around them.

So my advice: Mention your thoughts to your psychologist and your doctor. It's good that you're taking an interest in your treatment and what your diagnosis may be, and they will most likely make a note of what you say. Also, talk to your family - if there is no family history of bipolar, then it's unlikely that you have it. Sometimes a family history of depression can affect that, but bipolar is a mood disorder that definitely is to some degree genetic. There are other things that can cause mood disorders that present similarly to bipolar, such as substance abuse, and some types of head injuries, but for the most part from a clinical perspective unless you have incredibly obvious outstandingly severe episodes, no diagnosis will be made whilst you are so young.

And then, it also takes people many, many years to get a confirmed diagnosis in some cases - doctors have to work out which bits are your personality, which bits are related to your history, which bits are you reacting to your environment, which bits are physical and genetic, and THEN which bits don't fit with any of that and are therefore disordered thoughts.

In any case, I respect that you are not trying to self-diagnose and I am very glad. As you are obviously aware, self-diagnosing is the devil's drink

And finally - they key difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II is not the ratio of the episodes, but the occurrence of full-blown mania. Only one episode of full-blown mania or a mixed episode is required for a diagnosis of Bipolar I, whereas people with Bipolar II experience a much less severe version of mania known as hypomania. People with Bipolar II do not experience full-blown mania. If they do, their diagnosis will be changed. But you are right in observing that many patients with Bipolar II experience more "lows" than "highs".

Anyway if you'd like to talk more flick me a PM, I currently have a diagnosis of mood disorder due to a general medical condition presenting as Bipolar I, but we've recently discovered I have a family history so my diagnosis may be changing again.


Good luck with talking to your psychologist!
   
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