That said, asking your psychiatrist questions about your condition has life-saving benefits. Once you’re diagnosed, going in-depth gives you a head start. It prepares you for future incidents of mania and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. What type of bipolar disorder do you have? What are the warning signs of an episode? What to do when you go into fits of depression or miss your medication? These are some questions to ask your psychiatrist about bipolar disorder.
Knowledge is power. It is better to know more about bipolar disorder than to accept your doctor’s diagnosis as it is. Moreover, asking questions could also help your psychiatrist take a second look and make sure that your diagnosis is accurate.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms: What Are They?
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood shifts at certain periods – from being exceedingly happy and motivated to being melancholic. These mood episodes can last for weeks or months depending on the type of bipolar disorder. Depression is a common denominator in patients with bipolar disorder and unipolar depression. The following are some symptoms of bipolar disorder:
- Extreme sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Negative thoughts
- Disinterest in daily activities
- Oversleeping or lack of sleep
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Weight loss
- Persistent headaches and body pains
- Suicidal thoughts
A psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder in San Diego would perform a thorough evaluation involving past episodes to determine the type of bipolar disorder that you have or if your symptoms are indicative of a different mental condition. When you consult a mental health care provider, mention your past experiences even from a decade ago as this information is critical.
The Four Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are four types of bipolar disorder and each is classified according to the severity and frequency of the symptoms:
- Bipolar I
- Bipolar II
You can read more about these four types of bipolar disorder in this article.
What Questions to Ask Your Psychiatrist About Bipolar Disorder?
For an individual with bipolar disorder, a correct diagnosis means the world. Accurate information about your condition would help a lot in getting the right treatment options for you. These are important in order for you to enjoy a normal and healthy life, better relationships, and a more positive outlook on life.
Here are some helpful questions that you can ask your psychiatrist about bipolar disorder.
1. What type of bipolar disorder do I have?
Bipolar disorder, like other mental illnesses, is viewed as a spectrum. No set of symptoms are alike and it can vary from one person to another. Find out with your mental care provider which type of bipolar disorder you have. Knowing your category will guide you and your psychiatrist to formulate an appropriate treatment plan and what kind of adjustments you need in your lifestyle.
2. What are the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II?
Bipolar disorder has subtypes – bipolar I and bipolar II. The symptoms of bipolar I can be more severe than those of bipolar II. The type of medications and other treatment approaches may also differ, which is why it’s important to distinguish them.
3. What causes my bipolar episodes?
It’s important to understand what causes your bipolar disorder. Some causes are neurobiological, some are caused by an underlying medical condition (e.g., hypo/hyperthyroidism). Bipolar disorder can also be medication-induced. Anti-depressants, for example, are known to cause hypomania. Another possible cause of the disorder is substance use (cannabis, stimulants). Identifying the possible causes of your condition will give you pointers on how to avoid the triggers and what you can do to avoid or treat them as well.
4. Can my medication cause bipolar disorder?
Some medications can trigger bipolar disorder such as anti-depressants. If you are already taking medications for depression or anxiety disorder, ask your psychiatrist if these could be causing your mood episodes. Subsequently, ask if there is a better alternative that has fewer side effects given that you have bipolar disorder.
5. Is an anti-depressant necessary for treating bipolar disorder?
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and have been prescribed an anti-depressant, it’s important to know whether you need it long-term because some SSRIs can trigger hypomania. The function of anti-depressants is to increase the amount of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — some of the feel-good neurotransmitters that drive up your mood, therefore suppressing depression. If used in treating bipolar symptoms, the chances of experiencing mania are high.
Many specialists nowadays would likely prescribe other medications that have more positive effects on your mental health such as Lithium, Depakote, or Valproic. Lithium has been found to be a great treatment for bipolar disorder and many patients do well after taking it. However, regular monitoring is required during treatment to make sure you are taking the right dosage and find out if there are side-effects on your physical health. Patients taking Depakote and Valproic also respond well, but monitoring is also required.
6. Should I be concerned with alcohol and substances?
Whether your alcohol intake is mild, moderate, or heavy, ask your psychiatrist if this has any effect on your condition or how this affects you. The same goes if you have a history of substance abuse. Experts suggest that around 40% of individuals with bipolar disorder may develop alcohol and/or substance abuse. Alcohol has a sedating effect, which could intensify bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder subjects a person to feelings of intense happiness to extreme sadness back and forth. During these times, they view alcohol or illegal substances as numbing solutions to mood struggles. The calming effects of these may suspend the symptoms of bipolar for a short period. Once sedation is over, you may find your symptoms to be a lot worse.
7. What to do if I miss my meds?
Medications for bipolar disorder must be taken regularly and on time. But there are instances when you miss a dose. One slip may not impact your condition negatively. You can just take the next dose, catch up and make sure you don’t forget them again. However, missing two or more doses can lead to a relapse. Knowing what to do if this happens will help prevent any adverse effects and keep you on track.
First, check if you really missed a dose. Sometimes, too many things are going on and you may not remember whether you did take a pill or not. Set an alarm for each dose or place your meds in a pill box. If you did miss one, take it as soon as you remember but pass if it’s close to the next dose. Do not double up.
If you experience something out of the ordinary, call or visit your psychiatrist right away.
8. What are the warning signs of developing mania or hypomania?
Recognizing the early warning signs of mania is critical. It will help you get immediate treatment before it turns into a full-blown mania. If things get worse, hospitalization may be needed, disrupting your daily life.
The early warning signs of mania include:
- Rapid speech
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Easily distracted
- Displaying risky behaviors
- Lack of energy
Recognizing these early warning signs before going into a full-blown mania can help you seek advanced intervention. Failure to detect mania immediately can cause a lot of trouble in terms of your relationships, finances, and life in general. There might be instances when you could act or communicate aggressively towards family members, friends, or colleagues leaving some emotional damage. There might also be times when would splurge on needless things.
Having a prevention action plan when these signs arise can go a long way. Be prepared so you know what to do next. Your next course of action could include a visit to your psychiatrist, or calling a friend or a family member for assistance.
What Are the Risks of Misdiagnosis?
Incorrect medication is a major risk of misdiagnosing bipolar disorder with unipolar depression or other mental illnesses. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concludes that anti-depressants can potentially worsen bipolar disorder. Due to misdiagnosis, individuals with bipolar disorder are prescribed anti-depressants after their first manic episode instead of mood stabilizers, which aggravated the condition.
The medications prescribed to bipolar patients help stabilize their moods, while anti-depressants destabilize them. The wrong prescription would then result in a more self-destructive outcome leading to higher chances of suicide.
Questions to Ask Your Psychiatrist About Bipolar Disorder Are As Important as Getting the Right Treatment in San Diego
Being proactive with your diagnosis is a great first step to your recovery. When you’re armed with questions to ask your psychiatrist about bipolar disorder, it can help you set expectations and be ready for future incidents. Being informed gives you tools to be capable of catching early warning signs of mania, avoiding medication and substances that can worsen your condition, and other difficulties you may face.
Our bipolar specialists at Psychiatrists San Diego, Psychiatric Care NPs are ready to answer your questions! We offer a range of treatment programs for depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, or bipolar disorder that are specific to your symptoms and responses to ensure your full and long-term recovery.
We will help you get through the hard times and guide you through continuous recovery and healing. Call us today.