Diagnosis Difficulties

Yesterday, I talked about how data can help someone struggling with mental illnesses better understanding and manage their demons. Today, I want to talk about a specific way that data and mood tracking can help, which is by preventing misdiagnosis. 

As with any illness, mental or physical, it is important to have the right diagnosis so that one can get the right treatment. However, one problem that can arise is misdiagnosing borderline personality disorder as depression. And this is where mood tracking is specifically important. 

First, it is important to note that borderline personality disorder is not the same as bipolar depressive disorder, sometimes called manic depression. Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a mental disorder characterized by an inability to regulate mood, resulting in instability in moods. This can, in turn, create impulsiveness, instability in one’s work or professional life, and more. While bipolar depression also has mood swings from manic to depressive, there is a mid-range or baseline personality between these mental states that isn’t as present in BPD. There is also typically more stability in personal and professional relationships. 

This overlap can make it difficult to properly diagnose. Indeed, BPD was only recognized as a separate diagnosis in 1980. In fact, when I first started researching borderline personality disorder I almost had to ask myself if it was possible that I had it, given the overlap in symptoms. 

Accurate mood tracking can give a clearer picture of one’s emotional history, better allowing mental health professionals to make the proper diagnosis. This is important so that an individual can get the right treatment. For example, while both conditions can be treated with a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, depression can also be treated with serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications can actually exacerbate the symptoms of BPD, increasing mood instability and possibly even increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. Therapy strategies may be different for the two disorders as well. 

Being mindful of your mental illness is essential for the recovery process. Understanding the difference between BPD and the different depressive disorders highlights that importance. The more we talk about mental illness, both individually and as a society, the easier it will be for those struggling to be mindful and open about their struggles and get the care that is needed. If you are struggling or if you feel like your depression treatment isn’t working, there is no shame in talking to someone about it. Because that is how you deal with diagnosis difficulties and get the help you need.

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