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Health Team

Early Diagnosis Could Prevent Years of Anguish for Bipolar Patients

Posted March 7, 2008

Doctors are looking to prevent years of anguish for people who suffer serious and drastic mood swings caused by bipolar disorder.

George Gordon, 55, has been plagued by bipolar disorder since he was a child.

He would suffer deep depression. Then his mood would swing to the other end of the scale.

"In the family, growing up, I suspected something was different about me," Gordon said. He did not know what was wrong, however, and delayed seeking help.

Dr. Eric Youngstrom, a University of North Carolina psychologist, says most people with bipolar disorder suffer for 11 to 19 years before they are properly diagnosed and begin to receive treatment.

"The stigma of mental health is what kept me from seeking aid – you know, assistance – earlier than I did," Gordon said.

Youngstrom says that is more a failure of the mental-health system than of the patients.

"What we had been doing is sitting in the hospital waiting for the heart attack," he said, using an analogy to a physical illness. "And what we're realizing now is, you know, we could have prevented that risk."

Doctors could have prevented suffering by recognizing bipolar disorder's traits as early as childhood.

There is effective medication available. And, as Gordon learned, regular counseling is just as important.

"It's a lot more manageable, and I'm thinking a lot more clearly now," he said. "I'm not doing things on the spur of the moment. I'm not maxing out the credit cards to make myself feel better."

He hopes what he learned might help a younger generation.

"They don't have to suffer like I suffered for those 30 years," he said.

7 Comments

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  • truth-hurts Mar 12, 11:30 a.m.

    Shadow213 took the words right out of my mouth!!

  • TheAdmiral Mar 12, 9:47 a.m.

    I do NOT suffer from Bipolar Disorder - I enjoy both of my personalities!

  • PikeMom4real Mar 10, 4:58 p.m.

    Bi-Polar is WAY MORE than a simple mood swing!!!!!!!!!! Way more.It is horrible.

  • Justin T. Mar 10, 2:37 p.m.

    I am successfully treating my bi polar disorder with Ray-Ban polarized sunglasses.

  • Shadow213 Mar 10, 12:58 p.m.

    it's my personal belief that people in the US are OVER diagnosed with mental illnesses they don't really have. We are 66% of the world's market for psychiatric meds...but we don't make up 66% of the world's population. Not trying to smack down anyone with serious psychiatric problems here...but I do think that in our culture-- we expect us and others to be happy all the time. When in reality, we're not. And that's perfectly okay.

  • lpf88 Mar 10, 12:05 p.m.

    ladyblue- I'm sorry to hear about your misdiagnoses. I know that must have been a hard time for you and your family. My father is bipolar and it took years before they would quit labeling it ADD and treat him for his disorder. (ADD medications tend to cause more harm than good in bipolar patients). For the family and sufferers of bipolar it is a horrible disease.

    "Youngstrom says that is more a failure of the mental-health system than of the patients"

    Words have never rung more true!!

  • ladyblue Mar 10, 10:05 a.m.

    I don't understand this when they don't even have a way to detect bi polar through tests. I went through treatments with horrible side effects for 4 years on the assumption I was bi polar. After horrible side effects from this drug and my one gut feelings I wasn't bi polar I dropped this drug and went to another doctor, only to find I was pernicious anemic which can also cause mood swings. Back when that teacher stated her bi polar made her mess with that young student it seems the doc'[s went crazy labeling folks with it. I wasn't the only victim of misdiagnosis.