A reader just posted a comment that she, too, was misdiagnosed at one time:
“Misdiagnosis is not an obsolete characteristic that only happens at UBH. It happens EVERYWHERE. I had a incorrect diagnosis of bipolar disorder at one point as well and was put on lithium…”
This reminds me of a study I read about right after I got out of UBH. I started seeing an absolutely AWESOME and wonderful psychiatrist as soon as I got out of there. There was still the possibility I was bipolar… hell, I didn’t know for sure what had happened to me. He literally saved my life as soon as he took me off the lithium, and he mentioned to me that many of his colleagues were, in his estimation, overusing the bipolar diagnosis.
I was signed out of work for the entire semester and had lots of time on my hands, so I spent my days scouring the internet for information on bipolar diagnosis, stories of bad Chantix experiences, etc. And I found this interesting study by Zimmerman, et al. Basically they took hundreds of people who had been diagnosed as bipolar and put them through the proper testing for it and found that over half of them were NOT bipolar. Why does this happen?
I’ll tell you why… insurance billing. When you go into a hospital they can’t just have you there, they have to put a diagnosis code on you. It has to be a number from the DSM guide. (Read about that more here.) And when I went there, I knew I was having what my parents had always called a “nervous breakdown.” (As a reminder to those who don’t know me, I had never had an episode like that before, and, have not had one since–this one was brought about by a lack of sleep, which is known to cause psychosis). So I even asked the doctor about that, and he said, “There is no such diagnosis as “nervous breakdown.”” That’s because it’s not in the DSM!
So, the bottom line is when a doctor or hospital wants to send your insurance company a bill, they can’t just say “She cracked up like an egg hitting pavement.” They have to slap a DSM identifier on you and the easiest one is bipolar disorder.
Here’s the problem with that. First and foremost, it jeopardizes your health to be put on bipolar meds if you’re not bipolar. I am living proof of that. It was a solid two years before I started feeling remotely like myself again, thanks to the combination of Chantix and lithium. Lithium, administered to someone who is not bipolar, is absolutely horrendous. I’ll blog about that some day and try to explain what it was like.
But also what happens to you is it absolutely destroys your future insurability. You simply cannot get life insurance or health insurance if you’ve been diagnosed as bipolar. And, forever after that, when asked “Have you ever been diagnosed as psychotic, schizo, bipolar, etc..?” your truthful answer has to be “Yes.” And, a classic symptom of bipolar disorder is denying that you have it…so if you then say, “But that diagnosis was wrong,” you’re going to have to have some other doctor write a letter for you that says, “No, not bipolar” and doctors are usually not too keen on out-and-out refuting another doctor’s diagnosis.
Further, in case you didn’t know it, all major pharmacies will share your drug usage when an insurer asks for it. Why? Because you authorize them to when you apply for coverage. The underwriter at the insurance company will “run your ‘scrip report” and everything you’ve ever taken will show up on that report. So, that lithium you took… no matter how long ago it was… will show up and according to my friends in the life insurance industry will get you a big fat denial of coverage almost immediately.
And, finally, let’s not forget what it does to your family to think you’re bipolar. It causes a lot of worry, and a lot of headache and heartache. Just ask my mother, who came to take care of me after I was released from UBH. She will tell you what kind of a zombie I was on the drugs Dr. Khan put me on. I can vouch for that myself…. I fell asleep at the wheel of my car at a red light one afternoon. I’m just lucky I didn’t do it while the car was moving!
So, while it may be true that lots of people are misdiagnosed in the mental health system–and I’m sure that it is true–that does not excuse UBH and their protocol of slapping the bipolar diagnosis on practically everyone who enters. And if there are other hospitals doing that? Shame on them, too.