My wife has bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder also know as manic depression is a serious and common mental illness, affecting about 2.6% of the adult population in the US. It is characterized by cycling between depression and mania. The suicide rate is 5 times, and the death rate is 2 times, the normal . Dealing with this illness has been complicated and frustrating since shortly after our marriage. There were warning signs but they were not understood.
Early Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder
In 2004 about a year after our marriage my wife began to show some unusual behavior. She started to spend money very impulsively. She had a particular weakness for credit cards and would max them out, then deny that she used them. At times she became angry and argumentative. At other times she did not want to get out of bed in the morning.
Other symptoms started to appear like trouble sleeping, and work problems. She then started to place blame on a witch that was casting spells on her. I am a musician and would have to work many evenings. One evening before leaving for work she did not want me to go. She said that if I went my clothes would be outside the door when I cam back. This led to us being separated from 2005 to 2006.
Misdiagnosis is Common for Bipolar Disorder
While we lived apart my wife visited our family doctor and was diagnosed as being depressed. The family doctor gave her a prescription to various medications and she reacted very badly to them. She had difficulty walking, gained weight, dizzy spells, shortness of breath, and was still depressed. During one visit to the family doctor she passed out in the waiting room. After a year the family doctor finally referred her to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
The reasons for my wife’s misdiagnosis are obvious. At that time she was in the depressive phase of the illness and was diagnosed as chronically depressed. This is the most common misdiagnosis. The medications for depression are not effective for stabilizing bipolar disorder so they did not help her.
At that time I did not know the warning signs of bipolar disorder. Compulsive spending is one of the most common. Impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse and other addictions are a sign of bipolar disorder. Drastic changes in personality are common in the manic phase. Problems with personal relationships are frequent. The feeling that they can do no wrong, and passing blame are also very common (invincibility and risk taking). Sleep disruptions are also frequent. I suspected there was a problem but I had no idea what was wrong.
I will continue this story in future articles about my wife’s treatment problems.
For more information on he warning signs of bipolar disorder:
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Diseases and Conditions Bipolar Disorder