Getting Your Doctor to Take Your Bipolar Seriously if you’re High-Functioning
I once wrote an article on high-functioning bipolar disorder. High-functioning bipolar disorder is bipolar disorder where the person can still function in the major areas of his or her life. So people with high-functioning bipolar disorder hold down jobs, pay their rent, have food in the fridge, shower, and maintain social relationships.
Many people with bipolar disorder do all those things. The thing is, many people don’t. And the tendency is to compare a person who functions highly to one who may not be able to work or pay bills or shower. When this comparison is made, it is assumed that the high-functioning person must not be that sick when compared to others. This leads to doctors not taking the illness seriously of the higher-functioning person. And this is too bad because it can lead to people with high-functioning bipolar disorder get suboptimal treatment.
So how do you get your doctor to take your bipolar seriously if you’re high-functioning?
High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder is Still Serious
I think it’s important to remember that maintaining a job and paying a mortgage is not a prophylactic against the serious nature of bipolar disorder. People with social ties who shower die just as dead as everyone else. And just because a person functions well in some respects doesn’t mean that other parts of his life are not falling apart. It also doesn’t mean that they aren’t in severe amounts of pain.
Getting Your Bipolar Taken Seriously
Remember, bipolar is an invisible illness so the key to getting your bipolar taken seriously is to communicate about it effectively in an open and honest way. This is much harder than it sounds. People, by and large, don’t want to talk about their pain; they don’t want to talk about their suffering. This is normal. But you have to because your doctor cannot know how much pain you’re in unless you tell him.
You must say things like:
- My depression is really severe. On a scale of 1 to 10, my depression is an 8.
- I’m feeling suicidal.
- I feel like I might hurt myself.
- I feel out of control and overwhelmed.
- My thoughts are moving so quickly I can’t keep up with them.
- I’m starting to think things that I know aren’t true.
- My behavior is really unusual for me – I couldn’t stop myself from gambling away 100s of dollars even though I can’t afford it.
- I couldn’t work two days last week.
And so on. These are things you probably don’t want to say. These are things you probably don’t want to admit to. But you have to. They indicate the severity of your illness. And it’s this severity that will make your doctor take you seriously.
And if your doctor still isn’t responding? Then simply say this, “I need help now. I can’t live like this.” It’s very simple and it’s the truth. You wouldn’t be there and you wouldn’t be making yourself so vulnerable if you didn’t really need the help and it’s okay to say that.
It’s Important to Take Bipolar Seriously
You’re right to want your bipolar disorder to be taken seriously. Ideally, that should happen without your concerted effort but the truth is, if you present well, you’re likely to be treated like you are more well than you really are. You have to use your own skills to overcome this. You have to make your doctor understand what you’re really experiencing. This is hard work. But it’s worth it because it’s the way you’re going to get the help you need to really function as well as you appear to.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.