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Bipolar disorder going undiagnosed in people with depression


As many as one in five people being treated for depression in primary care could have undiagnosed bipolar disorder, according to researchers.

Psychiatrists assessed 154 people being treated for depression by their GP and found 29 met the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.

The authors said: “It is likely that many people being treated for depression by their GP will have been prescribed antidepressants. For people who in fact have undiagnosed bipolar disorder, these drugs may be at best unhelpful and at worst harmful.”

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Readers' comments (7)

  • GPs are generalists not specialists and should not be involved in diagnosing and attempting to treat mental health conditions. These must be referred to a psychiatrist with the choice of direct referral by the patient as in other European countries which have more developed medical systems than in the UK.

    False diagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be harmful.

    Hopefully, this is not going to result in a new wave of over diagnoses or false diagnoses of patients with dysphoria or a light or simple transitory depression.

    Patients know their symptoms best themselves and the level of support and treatment they need to fit in with their personal needs and lifestyle and the role of the GPs is to offer best advice.

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  • reference to above; I don't think psychiatric services would cope if GPs referred everyone who presents with a MH problem to a psychiatrist. One in five of us as a mental health problem at some stage of our lives and GP practices are (as I understand) full of people who are experiencing these difficulties. Your comment suggests also that there is something magical about psychiatry when much of the time in my experience it is a trial and error process- try the patient on this and if that doesn't work try them on something else instead.
    The article also suggests that mental health problems can be clearly distinuguished from one another as if they were entirely separate complaints. A patient may experience a whole raft of symptoms at one stage or another- and a mental health specialist may be no better equiped to diagnose these than a generalist.
    I am quite happy to consult my GP on my mental health problems, I may not be comfortable with a psychiatrist who has never met me before and has no idea what is going on in my life.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Mar-2011 10:06 am

    There is a history of too many failures using non-specialist GP services for mental health problems and their diagnosis and treatments. This is a specialist area which needs to be developed in line with the increasing demands and needs of the population.

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  • equally people with genuine mental health issues are being dismissed and expected to cope unsupported. When will services improve and people who need support including those with drug and alcohol problems, actually improve and provide a service for those who need help when they need ie providind a patient centred psychiatric service

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  • Jenny Havercroft | 12-Mar-2011 0:15 am

    until this happens discrimination and stigma will continue. I support all the comments above.

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  • As someone who works in mental health and have seen family members experience mental illness it is sad the stigma that is still attached to mental illness. Even the discrimination that goes on in the said NHS that is suppose to treat and support those with a mental illness. e.g turn up in A+E as soon it is known you had a mental illness in the past it is assume you are relapsing again then what happens your physical well being is mostly at the bottom of the list. And as for getting to see a GP how many people actually are able to see their GP without making an appointment at least 4 days in advance.

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  • I do not understand this uncaring attitude you see in Britain and in the health services. this does not occur in other European countries. healthcare personnel also receive education and training of a much higher standard.

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