Mental illness is a tricky thing to manage properly. Part of that is the way it is so skilled at whispering lies to us, lies that pull us down into the darkness, lies that start our dark tales. Yet it is also a tricky thing because of the danger of misdiagnosis.
If you go to the doctor with a broken leg, there is little confusion about the diagnosis. Similarly, if you are sick, the doctor can run labs to confirm what the diagnosis is. Unfortunately, there is no lab for mental illness.
Sometimes labs will be used to rule out physiological causes for certain symptoms, such as hormone imbalances, but ultimately, mental illness itself is based on the criteria established in the DSM-V, which change as we learn more about mental illness. And the fact these things can change, the fact we are still learning about mental illness, highlights the danger of misdiagnosis for mental illness.
For example, if a bipolar patient only ever presents to their mental health professional during their depressive episodes, they may be misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder, not bipolar disorder. The danger there of course is that some antidepressants that are effective against depression may actually flip a bipolar patient into a manic state. Similarly, overlap between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder may cause misdiagnosis, which also is dangerous given that the different mental illnesses can give rise to different therapy types and different treatment types.
This is why it is so important to be mindful of changes in your mental health, especially after starting a new medication. Ideally, your mental health professional will be closely monitoring you, but sometimes, you need to be your advocate. Doing so can help avoid the danger of misdiagnosis.
And friends and close family can help with this as well. Part of my aim with this blog is not only to connect with others who are in the darkness of mental illness, but also to help those who live with and love those battling mental illness better understand the demons of things like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Not only can they help recognize your mental state, they can help you manage it with love and compassion.
And there are always going to be those people out there to help you. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you are not alone, not matter what the lies of mental illness might say. And together, we are stronger than those demons. And together we can overcome them and overcome the danger of misdiagnosis.