Perceptions and Impact of Bipolar Disorder: How Far Have We Really Come? Results of the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association 2000 Survey of Individuals With Bipolar Disorder
J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(2):161-174
© Copyright 2015 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Objective: To assess the experience of selected
individuals living with bipolar disorder and compare this
experience with that of a similar group of individuals sampled in
Method: In June 2000, 4192 self-administered
questionnaires were sent to National Depressive and
Manic-Depressive Association chapters for distribution to support
group participants diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By July 31,
2000, the first 600 completed surveys were analyzed.
Results: Over one third of respondents sought
professional help within 1 year of the onset of symptoms.
Unfortunately, 69% were misdiagnosed, with the most frequent
misdiagnosis being unipolar depression. Those who were
misdiagnosed consulted a mean of 4 physicians prior to receiving
the correct diagnosis. Over one third waited 10 years or more
before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Despite having
underreported manic symptoms, more than half believe their
physicians' lack of understanding of bipolar disorder prevented a
correct diagnosis from being made earlier. In 2000, the
respondents reported a greater negative impact of bipolar
disorder on families, social relationships, and employment than
did the respondents in 1992. Overall, respondents were satisfied
with their current treatment, which often included medication,
talk therapy, and support groups. Respondents who were highly
satisfied with their treatment provider had a more positive
outlook on their illness and their ability to cope with it.
Conclusion: Individuals with bipolar disorder
reported that the illness manifests itself early in life but that
accurate diagnosis lags by many years. The illness exacts great
hardships on the individual and the family and has a profoundly
negative effect on careers. These findings are very similar to
those reported nearly a decade ago.