The symptoms of bipolar disorder may resemble those of another condition. Because of this, people with bipolar disorder may receive a misdiagnosis.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves extreme mood changes. Shifting between high and low moods is a hallmark of this condition. These episodes of mania and depression can vary in severity and length, lasting anywhere from
Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be challenging. Its symptoms can mimic those of other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Some researchers estimate that
This article explores four common bipolar disorder misdiagnoses. It also explains why misdiagnosis happens, the potential consequences of misdiagnosis, and more.
A common misdiagnosis for bipolar disorder is major depressive disorder (MDD). This is likely because the symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of MDD.
At least half of people with bipolar disorder first experience a depressive episode. These episodes last longer than manic episodes. Because of this, people with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help during a depressive episode.
The symptoms of a depressive episode can mimic those of MDD. People seeking care during a depressive episode may receive an incorrect diagnosis of MDD.
Read more about the difference between bipolar disorder and depression.
Some people with bipolar disorder may also have delusions and hallucinations. Additionally, depressive episodes are a characteristic of bipolar disorder. For these reasons, healthcare professionals may mistake bipolar disorder for schizophrenia.
Diagnosing a mental health condition also involves taking a family history. People with a family history of schizophrenia may be more likely to develop it. This could also contribute to misdiagnosing bipolar disorder as schizophrenia.
Researchers have found that anxiety is another common misdiagnosis for bipolar disorder. This may happen because the two conditions have similar symptoms or because many people with bipolar disorder also have an anxiety disorder.
One study found that 34.7% of people with bipolar disorder also met the criteria for anxiety. This study also compared people with bipolar disorder to those without and found that people with bipolar disorder had an almost 5 times higher risk of anxiety.
Some people with bipolar disorder may receive only an anxiety diagnosis. In some cases, this might be a misdiagnosis. In other cases, people may have both conditions.
People with bipolar disorder may receive an incorrect diagnosis of BPD. Some
The diagnostic criteria for both conditions include “affective instability,” a tendency to rapidly shift between moods. This may influence the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder in certain cases.
Many people with bipolar disorder also have another mental health condition. Some research suggests that about 35% of people with bipolar disorder also have anxiety and that
Read more about the difference between bipolar disorder and BPD.
People who have bipolar disorder but receive a misdiagnosis will still experience symptoms of bipolar disorder. They may cycle between periods of depression and mania. Additional symptoms may include:
- sleep disturbances
- illogical thought patterns
Anyone who is experiencing these or other symptoms of bipolar disorder should contact a healthcare or mental health professional.
It can be difficult to access effective care for bipolar disorder. Some people may wait
The difficulties in finding care for this condition may contribute to misdiagnosis, which can make it even more difficult to receive support. However, it is important for anyone who is experiencing symptoms to reach out to a healthcare or mental health professional.
A bipolar disorder misdiagnosis can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health. People who receive a misdiagnosis tend to need more health services and have higher healthcare costs.
Additionally, people with a misdiagnosis may receive improper treatment. For example, people with a diagnosis of MDD often begin taking antidepressants. These medications
Anyone who believes they may have received a misdiagnosis should speak with a healthcare professional. They may need to consult a mental health professional with a background in bipolar disorder.
A professional with experience in this condition can provide a more accurate diagnosis and recommend an individualized treatment plan.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about the diagnosis and misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder.
How often is bipolar disorder misdiagnosed?
Some researchers estimate that the misdiagnosis rate for bipolar disorder is
A misdiagnosis can mean that a person receives a diagnosis of another mental health condition when they should have received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Alternatively, it can mean that they receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis when they should have received a diagnosis of a different condition.
Additionally, it can mean that they are experiencing both bipolar disorder and another mental health condition but receive a diagnosis for only one of them.
What is the most commonly misdiagnosed mental disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves shifting between episodes of mania and episodes of depression. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of some other conditions. Many people with bipolar disorder also have another mental health condition.
For these reasons, healthcare and mental health professionals commonly misdiagnose bipolar disorder as other conditions, such as MDD, schizophrenia, anxiety, and BPD.
People who are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder should speak with a healthcare or mental health professional. If the professional suspects a misdiagnosis, they can recommend further testing and treatment.