General Practitioners (GPs) Should Not Be Treating Bipolar
General practitioners (GPs) should not be treating bipolar disorder. It’s as simple as that and I have no idea why GPs don’t get this. If it’s obvious to me, a little ol’ mental health writer then it should be more than obvious to a medical professional that GPs are simply not equipped to treat bipolar.
GPs Are Generalists
General practitioners are, by definition, generalists. This means they know a little bit about a lot of things. It’s a GPs job to rule things in or out and treat the most common illnesses. They generally do a pretty good job of this.
However, GPs, by definition, are not specialists and when something goes wrong that is out of the ordinary and not just something that requires antibiotics or a blood test, GPs tend to refer you to a specialist. This is critical because when something unusual or serious is wrong with you, you want someone who knows a lot about your particular condition and not a little about many conditions.
Brain Disorders Require a Specialist
And no one would argue that when something goes wrong with the brain, it is both serious and complex. If you had a seizure, for example, that problem with the brain would earn you a referral to your nearest neurologist – as it should. Brain disorders should be treated by specialists.
And lest we forget, mental illnesses are, indeed, disorders of the brain and thus they, too, deserve treatment by a specialist.
Mistakes GPs Make When Treating Bipolar Disorder
And it’s not that I have anything against GPs, I don’t, it’s that they do a strikingly bad job of treating bipolar disorder (and not a good job of diagnosing bipolar either). More often than not, they treat only the depressive part of the disorder and they do this with antidepressants alone and, as I’ve said, over and over, (as psychiatrists say, over and over) people with bipolar disorder should not be on antidepressant monotherapy.
Bipolar should not be treated with antidepressant monotherapy because it can make the bipolar disorder and the course of the illness worse. In other words, GPs do more harm than good to people with bipolar disorder.
Here’s an example. A person diagnosed with bipolar just contacted me. She said that she was being treated by her GP. The GP asked her if, during her elevated moods, she felt like god. She said no. So the doctor went on to treat her with antidepressants alone.
I can’t even start to tell you how plain stupid that is. Yes, some people with bipolar do have delusions of grandeur during mania/hypomania but that isn’t even required for the diagnosis let alone a universal experience. And I hear stories like that all the damn time. Why is it that I, a mental health writer, would do a better job treating bipolar disorder than an actual doctor?
Do Not Settle for a GP Treating Your Bipolar
If you’re stuck with a GP treating your bipolar, do not stand for it. Demand a referral to a specialist – a psychiatrist – that is what you need and that is what you deserve. Now it is true that the odd GP may do a decent job at treating the occasional, simple case of bipolar, and if that is you, and you are getting better, then don’t fix what isn’t broken, but if this isn’t you, then please, please see a psychiatrist. The same thing goes for unipolar depression. I get that they are harder to see and I get that there are waiting lists and I get that there are sometimes insurance complications. Nevertheless, psychiatrists are the specialists that should be treating bipolar. GPs should know better than to even to try. They just make matters worse.
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.