How to get mental health professionals to listen past “Bipolar”

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    • #195967

      Hi all,

      I’m 28 years old and I strongly believe I’m in the predominately inattentive ADHD tribe – in every self test I take, every interview and story I compare myself to, in other people telling me I look like an ADHD person I really think I belong right here with you cool peoples. However, I’m struggling to get medical professionals to listen to me because of my very real and very well treated bipolar diagnosis.

      Whenever I have told psychiatrists and therapists that besides bipolar I’m struggling getting my act together or believe I have some mystery co-morbidity or some other problem I get what I’m calling “Magic Bipolar nonsense”:

      “You just have untreated bipolar symptoms, it is the thing that is causing chronic daily problems with attention and getting things accomplished. Seek therapy and get your meds checked.” Recently it was a neurologist who at one point said that I had done a lot of work and that my bipolar appeared to be well under control then later in the appointment said that “I’m a person with a certain high level of energy, and my remaining depression symptoms were causing me to direct that energy inward to a safe entertaining space. See a therapist and learn to laugh at life’s misfortunes.” When I pressed at how an episodic mood disorder that I no longer suffer symptoms from could cause a life time of ADHD symptoms he simply restated that bipolar can look like ADHD so therefore its bipolar. Total nonsense.

      Does anyone have tips on how to get mental health professionals to not latch on to this existing diagnosis? I have additional challenges, I live in a small state with few providers, my medical records are now filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, and now a neurologist saying it isn’t ADHD but “magic bipolar symptoms”, and I’ve spent my entire life telling people “I don’t have ADHD, I’m just dumb and lazy”. Also I tend to overwhelm doctors with long speeches explaining all my symptoms and research so I think I intimated or make them stop listening or lose details.

      Related note: do you think I should even bother seeing my former psychiatrist who told me this line as well several times?

      Thanks for making this great community available to people like me!

    • #195969

      I have a bipolar diagnosis as well and was treated from 2009-2017 mostly just for those symptoms.
      I did take Vyvanse for a few years during psychiatrists adding or taking away BPD meds.
      I finally found a doctor in 2017 who was stern about me taking a written test regarding what I was feeling, symptoms, etc. One random visit and finally told me what he has seen in the field of medicine.
      He says that most doctors will hold onto a diagnosis over adult ADD because your symptoms are taken control of with the correct prescribed ADD meds.
      As you know with BPD- those symptoms take years and various medicines to gain control over anything. Once you become stable- your doc wants to add another pill or have you try a sample.
      I would honestly find another doctor. I have moved states a couple times and have always spent time searching for the correct practitioner to handle my medications that have gotten me stable. Try calling offices and asking if they offer any treatment for ADD/ADHD or if they offer diagnostic testing.
      You’d be surprised that there are actual doctors who understand that BPD and ADD/ADHD ccan and do get diagnosed or misdiagnosed quite frequently.

    • #195976

      Hi Beheadedio!

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Last time I called doctors in the area they all wanted a diagnosis (hence the neurologist) before even talking about ADHD. Is there a way around that or do I just widen the net? What do I ask about on the phone to get in the door?

      Do people react differently if I loudly declare I’m not interested in stimulant medication?

    • #196102
      James Robert

      Hey…Thank you for sharing your side of the story. ADHD is a tough thing to handle, and you have to be sure that what are you suffering from. Like is it ADHD or ADD you are facing normally.

    • #196103

      I used to say ADD, but, I think its ADHD and I just didn’t want to admit some of those symptoms.

    • #196111

      I’m dealing with a similar situation myself. I was diagnosed maybe 6yrs back as bipolar, which I thought was incorrect. Was given Lithium, didnt work and just stopped taking it and just left all that alone. And then last year I started seeing someone else and let them know I think it might ADD instead. And he agreed but my meds doctor is still trying to treat me with bipolar meds; lamotrigine didnt work, so now I’m currently divalproex.
      This whole things just makes everything much more exhausting and frustrating.

    • #196113

      How honest and open does a patient need to be with past records? Is it a law your have to tell them what you’ve told previous doctors? Can limit records requests to the bare minimum? I only see categories and one date range field. Do doctors get suspicious?

      How do doctor’s brains and culture work?

      I end up simply telling all anyway because I impulsively blurt it out (haha. sigh.)

      I hate feeling like I can’t trust the people who are supposed to take care of me. Can the magazine research how to best advocate yourself without getting painted with biases? Or how to find out if a potential doctor has biases when all they are is a phone number and a website?

    • #196114

      Many pats on the back to you hazerhea, I’m sorry you’re in this boat too. Don’t give up and don’t get gaslit by anyone who claims to know you better than you!

    • #196229
      Dr. Eric

      ADHD is a diagnosis of exclusion.
      You don’t test “positive”.
      You have to meet the profile of someone who meets the criteria.
      Then, all alternative explanations need to be systematically ruled out.
      Once the assessor has conclusively ruled out every other explanation, then the ADHD diagnosis stands.

      Part of the criteria explicitly states, “the symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.”

      It is extremely difficult to separate bipolar symptoms (and the medication side-effects, potentially), from ADHD symptoms. It is generally only done when the individual has their bipolar well-controlled and/or there is a lot of time of no depression and no manic/hypomanic episodes between cycles.

      Also, you are dealing with a disorder for which a very large percentage of patients are in denial of the need for meds or of the impact of the disorder until it is too late. In fact, the more aggressive the denial, the more likely the therapist is going to brace for a manic/hypomanic episode.

      Remember that online self-tests do not do differentiated diagnosis or rule-outs, there are plenty of non-ADD’ers who will score high on these tests if they have anxiety, bipolar, depression, diabetes, sleep apnea, or autism.

      Your best bet is a person who is willing to look at your history longitudinally and gets to know you over time.
      If I were in your position I would ask for a referral from the neurologist and sign a waiver for them to consult.

    • #196634

      I’m 62 years old and have had too many doctors to mention. Don’t give up if you are not happy with you Doctor. I’m not saying that if you don’t like what they say just get another one, but if they aren’t hearing you, move on. I have tried so many different medications and combinations over the years. Basically what I am told is that I am med resistant. I have always suffered from Depression, OCD, Eating Disorders and ADHD. I am also a recovering alcoholic, 27 years sober, my proudest accomplishment in my life besides my children. I do have to say that the ADHD is the one that I really struggle with. This site has been such a breath of fresh air for me. I do have trouble finishing an article before I sidetrack onto something else but, knowing I am not alone with this real issue is wonderful for me. I was brought up with the information that ADHD was just for hyper-active little boys. We were told that ADHD goes away when you enter adulthood. What a breath of fresh air it is to finally be able to read about people that struggle with the things that I do. I learned early in sobriety that there is power in numbers. It’s true. I have used my struggles with my chemical imbalances to help children that have severe disabilities. When you can use your struggles to help others then the world isn’t so crazy! I want to thank this site for posting the positives about having ADHD. I know when your struggling it’s hard to see those positives, but they are there.

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