If you’re prone to panic attacks, mood swings, irritability, or sadness, you may assume depression is what’s bogging you down. This isn’t necessarily the case, though. Your doctor could think more along the lines of anxiety, or you may have a family history of bipolar disorder. The last thing you want is to jump from diagnosis to diagnosis and from one medication to the next, because your mental health disorder has been misdiagnosed. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality for many. In order to help clear up some confusion, we’re highlighting five mental health disorders that are most commonly misdiagnosed.
1. Bipolar mood disorder
Bipolar mood disorder is a tough mental health disorder to diagnose correctly because its symptoms are so similar to its distant cousin, ADHD. The hallmark symptoms of this mental illness are extreme mood swings that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months, leaving those who have it in states of constant mania, depression, or a mix of the two, says Healthline. Those who have bipolar I have symptoms that are more severe and polarizing than those who have bipolar II. But either way, these symptoms can have a severe effect on a person’s mood, ability to maintain relationships, and the ability to be productive.
It seems like diagnosing bipolar disorder would be straightforward considering the distinctive mood swings, but attention deficit hyperactivity disorder actually has a lot of the same symptoms. Frequent outbursts, restlessness, and mood instability are characteristics of both disorders, even though ADHD is a lifelong condition that can start early. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, typically begins after age 18. Mood swings in those who have ADHD often only last 20 to 30 minutes, too, whereas bipolar individuals have mood swings lasting much longer.
In terms of medical diagnosis, bipolar mood disorder is often misdiagnosed as ADHD, especially among children and young adults.