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 Post subject: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:02 pm 
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My husband received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder today.

I don't know anything about being bipolar, I don't know exactly what the symptoms are, and I don't know what causes it. I've never been close to anyone who is bipolar (or was diagnosed as bipolar... Or shared the diagnosis, at least).

When he started having severe anxiety I made him talk to his doctor, he started medication and we plugged along. I was able to be supportive, especially having had anxiety myself, and was able to honestly tell him that I didn't think any less of him or love him less.

But I'm oddly wound up having learned this. I think it is because a) his family doc diagnosed him, and I feel like this is something that should be diagnosed by a specialist... Though I admit I don't know if that's the case or not. And b) I'm worried this will mean new, expensive medication. His dr says his current meds should be enough (venlafaxine xr and seroquel) but I find this hard to swallow.

The stereotypical bipolar character on TV or in books is not my husband. Not that I've seen, anyway. But I can only compare him to the stereotypes because I have no other frame of reference.

Any information, insight, anecdotes are appreciated. And links that aren't heavy on medical jargon because my mental fog is too thick to thick to deal with those shenanigans right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:30 pm 
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I'm bipolar, but my cycles are very, very slow/ long and I rarely get manic episodes. It's gotten less severe since my 20s. I've only ever really treated the depressive portion with any aggressiveness.

There really isn't a stereotypical behavior pattern for many people. Treatment is really trial and error, like most mental health treatments just because it's so individualized.

I think more primary docs dodgnose and threat these things now because there is a lack of access in many areas. My PCM seems pretty well informed. I still would prefer a specialist, but it's just not possible as none accept new patients or I fail the new patient screening.

Good luck! Having a diagnosis does help I think. At least it's somewhere to start.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:48 pm 
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I would see a psychiatrist if I were in your husband's shoes.

Have you noticed unusual behavior other than his anxiety? I'm confused because I feel like you would have observed symptoms other than anxiety if he's really bipolar.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:21 pm 
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A medical doctor is not trained in mental illness and/or psychiatry and therefore cannot accurately diagnose a person with a mental illness. I would definitely take him to see a psychiatrist- that's what they're for, that's their area of expertise. After that time, then you can start to think of everything else but until then I would try to not worry yourself too much (easier said than done, I know) until you have a more accurate diagnosis. There are many other disorders that seem like bipolar disorder but really are not and they need to be treated in a different way.

And like lavawitch said, there really is no stereotype. Bipolar disorder, like other disorders, comes in a range of types ad functioning levels and it expresses itself in different ways.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:40 pm 
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I also think that he should be seen by a psychiatrist, and am surprised he is not if he is on those 2 meds already. Seroquel seems pretty heavy duty to me to be rxed by a PCP.
Also anti-depressants may sometimes cause some people to "flip" into mania so that he may appear bipolar due to a reaction to meds.
/This is not medical advice. Please do not take as such. Please consult with a psychiatrist!


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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:49 pm 
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Moon, I think you're in Ontario. I imagine with OHip it's like MSP and an MD can refer you to a psychiatrist that will be covered.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:19 am 
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I'm bipolar as well, and I'd agree that it would be a good idea for your husband to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. At times I've had my PCP manage my meds, but it can be tricky at first to find the right combination. As far as costs go, I take a pretty cheapo combination (lithium + seroquel), but costs definitely range depending on the drug.

I'm sure this must be scary for both of you, and the media/popular fiction/ "very special episodes" of TV shows don't help things look hopeful. But there really are a lot of treatment options, and a lot of people with this illness who lead normal, productive lives.

Good luck, and remember you're not alone.


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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:59 pm 
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one more vote for him being seen/treated by a psychiatrist rather than a PCP.
PCP's dont have the expertise in this area that a psychiatrist would.

ive only had bad experiences with PCP's and mental health issues so my opinion might be jaded but i feel a psychiatrist would be better trained to hand out a proper diagnosis and medication consultation.

my PCP basically threw drugs at me that ended up giving me other severe health problems down the road.
when i finally went to a psychiatrist for medication consultation the psychiatrist flipped out that i was left on meds that clearly werent helping me for so long.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:33 pm 
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Ms. Shankly wrote:
A *primary care physician is not trained in mental illness and/or psychiatry and therefore cannot accurately diagnose a person with a mental illness. I would definitely take her to see a psychiatrist- that's what they're for, that's their area of expertise. After that time, then you can start to think of everything else but until then I would try to not worry yourself too much (easier said than done, I know) until you have a more accurate diagnosis. There are many other disorders that seem like bipolar disorder but really are not and they need to be treated in a different way.

And like lavawitch said, there really is no stereotype. Bipolar disorder, like other disorders, comes in a range of types ad functioning levels and it expresses itself in different ways.

*fixed.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:54 am 
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I have bipolar disorder and I strongly agree that your husband should get a second opinion from a psychiatrist. Family docs are great, and mine have been known to refill my meds for me when need be, but I would not take such a serious diagnosis from a doctor that does not specialize in mental health. If you or your husband have any questions about bipolar disorder don't hesitate to reach out to me. To be open and honest, I struggled with deep depression and anxiety from childhood to my mid 20s, so I was no stranger to mental illness, but I still freaked out a bit when I was diagnosed as bipolar.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:36 am 
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I have known a few people with bipolar disorder and I was screened for it once, since I have had a few hypo-manic episodes and have it in the family on both sides. It seems to be one of those things that can vary A LOT in intensity and form.

Stephen Fry has it, and made a pretty good documentary about it, which is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3EacQ4GfiU - there are two episodes and I found it very informing when I watched it!

I will second everyones suggestion about talking to a psychiatrist, instead of a regular doctor. They are basically two completely different fields, and good treatment is really important when it comes to mental illnesses - at least, that's my personal experience!

Good luck with figuring everything out. Try not to get too overwhelmed, he's the same person as he's been all along, but with a correct diagnosis it's a lot easier to find the right treatment when needed!

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:56 am 
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def, psychologist if you can!! i was also diagnosed with Bipolar, there seem to be so many permutations and variations of bipolar, and many ways of approaching it/treating it, that a specialist is really merited.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:06 pm 
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I think it is important to get an assessment by a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis. I'm surprised that seroquel was prescribed by the family doctor. I wouldn't worry about the stereotypes or even what you read on the internet. The best thing you and your husband could do right now would be to sit down and examine what symptoms he experiences, how they impact on day to day life and what could you do to alleviate an problems these symptoms may cause. Even having an idea of all that will help you both gain as much benefit as possible from any treatment in the future and maximise his chances of achieving recovery.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:22 pm 
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Thanks for the information, input and links. I really appreciate it.

I work at a psychotherapy clinic and spoke to one of the Drs (my favourite one) about whether this is something a GP can diagnose, and said "oh yeah, absolutely". Which surprised me. I'd still like for hubs to see a specialist, though. We've talked more about what his GP said and the plan going forward - he's going to have weekly appointments for the next few months. I hope to go to the next appointment with him and hear some of it for myself.

The good thing is that Mr Moon is getting more comfortable with the idea and thinks the diagnosis explains things about him quite a bit.

There's a lot more for me to learn but we are formulating a bit of a plan and I feel a lot better with that.

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:29 am 
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Moon wrote:
We've talked more about what his GP said and the plan going forward - he's going to have weekly appointments for the next few months. I hope to go to the next appointment with him and hear some of it for myself.


wow that's excellent. im really glad the GP is following up.
that kind of feels unheard of to me.

my biggest (personal) issue with my (former) PCP and mental health issues is i was given drugs and ignored.
i formerly, for my entire life, had been rail thin and atheltic. it was the only thing i liked about myself. on the drugs they gave me (zoloft) i gained SIXTY POUNDS in less than a year and ended up with way more health problems than i started off with and let's face it drugs dont make depression actually go away it just lessons your symptoms.
so now i was overweight, depressed, and had a ton more health problems that were asymptomatic before.

of course i was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder. i dont know what my actual diagnosis was but im guessing just generalized depression. a bipolar diagnosis is probably considered more serious. (though the past couple years ive been wondering if i have a very mild form of bipolar but that's a whole different thread). either way im glad the GP is being proactive but i would still recommend an actual psychiatrist!
good luck!

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 Post subject: Re: Talk to me about bipolar disorder
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:34 am 
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I'd like to second smoothie's rec for Stephen Fry's documentary about bipolar disorder, it is really excellent! I have heard that the book "Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder" is a great read for partners/family: http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Someone-Bi ... 1452655510 . Keep us posted!

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