When psychotic behavior is present, bipolar disorder is more apt to be diagnosed accurately. Early phases of the disorder, however, may look like a type of depression, especially amongst teens.

A Lengthy Road

Recognizing beginning stages of bipolar disorder can be tricky. Many mental health practitioners recognize the symptoms that present in patients who are depressed. But, these real symptoms may be accompanying the onset of bipolarity.
Because of the similarity in symptoms, a proper diagnosis of bipolar may not be made right away. Research from a new study reports that there is often a delay in receiving an accurate identification of the illness. The study claims that the average delay, frighteningly, is six years.

Lost Time

Matthew Large, a professor of psychiatry, was the leader of the study conducted in Australia. The research was compiled from case studies of over 9,400 patients. Large explains that because of the delay in diagnosis, time was lost that could’ve been spent treating bipolar disorder. Had the patients’ conditions been identified earlier, they could have received medicinal and psychiatric treatment over those years.
Additionally, Large points out that without therapy and medication, psychotic episodes occur more frequently and with greater severity. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes several years before the symptoms and behaviors are recognized as bipolar.

Teen Troubles

The study also found that many young patients were undiagnosed for a long time, too. Teens can experience mood swings from hormonal changes. That moodiness, however, according to records in the study, happened to be an early sign of the disorder. Many parents and doctors overlooked the behaviors, assuming it was just “teen” troubles.

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Getting a Clearer Picture

Large recommends that clinicians examine patients’ history more thoroughly when possible. This would include mood changes and what triggers them—is it internal, or are there external factors? Also, often bipolar disorder runs in families. Do any other family members have a history of mental illness?
The study is not suggesting that every moody teenager may be displaying early symptoms of bipolar disorder. It is, however, pointing out that if there are mental health issues in the gene pool history, keeping an eye out for increasing behaviors is not illogical. In the future, hopefully, there will be a way to detect both depression and bipolar disorder in a more timely fashion. The sooner treatment is provided, the better for all involved.
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