National Bipolar Awareness Day

National Bipolar Awareness Day

By Jessica Brown

Today (June 27th) is the first National Bipolar Awareness Day. The aim of today is to raise awareness of bipolar disorder, and this year’s emphasis is on the average time it takes to reach a diagnosis of the disorder.

Bipolar UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Bipolar Scotland recently carried out a survey of over 700 sufferers of bipolar, and concluded that 4 out of 5 struggled to get a correct diagnosis of their disorder.

The study also revealed that the average delay in diagnosis is 13 years, and many are wrongly diagnosed with depression by their doctor. Many participants in the study said that this made their symptoms worse, as they were given inappropriate treatments, such as antidepressants.

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder usually occurs between the ages of 11 and 20. Sufferers experience extreme mood swings that go between overactive, excited behaviour (mania) to episodes of debilitating depression. Sufferers can also experience hallucinations and delusions.

Delay in diagnosis can have devastating consequences for sufferers and their families. Bipolar disorder has the highest risk of suicide amongst all psychiatric illnesses, and this reason alone means it is crucial that sufferers get the correct treatment as soon as possible.

Bipolar UK

Bipolar UK hopes that today will become an annual event, with each year focusing on a different issue affecting the sufferers of bipolar disorder.

Alison Cairns, Chief Executive of Bipolar Scotland, said:  "The results of the survey reflect the experiences of our members.  There are many reasons for the delay in diagnosis, not least that people are more likely to visit a GP when depressed and not reveal the extent of their mood swings.  Highlighting these issues can only have a positive effect."

Suzanne Hudson, Chief Executive of Bipolar UK, advises any readers of Mental Healthy that suspect they may have bipolar disorder to, first and foremost, talk.  She says:

“Bipolar can have a very isolating impact, so it is very important to talk to a family member, a loved one, or us. If you’re concerned, use a mood scale to note on a daily basis how you’re feeling, how you slept the night before and your irritability. Take this to your GP so they can see evidence of how you’ve been feeling. But first and foremost, talking to someone is the best advice I can give”.

Lowering the average wait

Suzanne says that individuals concerned about their health, their relatives and friends along with medical professionals and the media all need to come together to work on lowering the average waiting time for sufferers of bipolar to reach a diagnosis.

TV presenter Bill Oddie has spoken about his own experience with bipolar disorder, and is in support of National Bipolar Awareness Day. He says:  "Over ten years to arrive at a correct diagnosis!  Really?  I can believe it. It happened to me and it's happening to others right now.  It could be fatal."

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