Get a Second Opinion
Being treated for bipolar disorder is a lifetime proposition, so you owe it to yourself to seek out a second opinion. This is especially important if the medication you are taking does not seem to be working. The same holds true in reverse. If your first doctor says you do not have bipolar disorder but you still think you might have it, see what a second doctor has to say.
Beware of Misdiagnosis
The most common errors in the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder are confusing one type of bipolar disorder for another and checking only for depression. If you are being tested for depression by a psychiatrist, you should ask if the doctor is also considering the possibility of mania. If you are diagnosed with a form of bipolar disorder, you should ask which type it is. Again, it also is in your best interest to seek a second opinion.
If you start a regimen of treatment, you should find out all you can about the medication you are taking. A good doctor will answer all of your questions, but you can also use resources such as the Internet to find out even more. Just be sure you use reliable sources such as those provided by major hospitals and authorities like the Mayo Clinic, the National Institute of Mental Health, etc. Once on medication, you need to be scrupulously honest with your doctor and yourself about what is or is not changing in your moods and physical condition.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 87 percent of patients report being satisfied with the care they receive from their doctors. Thus, despite the fact that diagnosis can be a drawn-out process, patients seem to be generally pleased with how they are treated, both in terms of their illnesses and as human beings.
Don't Let Limitations Stop You
No matter how delicate your financial situation is, it's worth-while to get a first and second opinion, a sound diagnosis, and, if necessary, treatment. If you live in a relatively small community and do not have access to a variety of psychiatrists, then see one in the next town over or in the nearest big city. Your mental well-being is more important than inconvenience or money if you can afford it.
What if the second psychiatrist's diagnosis is different than the first? In this case, you might want to consider how the two doctors came to their conclusions. Ask as many questions as possible of both doctors. You can also compare the two doctors in terms of their years of experience, references from other patients, and how well each seems to understand you and is willing to listen to you. If you're still in doubt, seek out a third opinion if possible.
Once you have found a medication or a combination of medications that work for you, stay on it! No matter how stable your moods have become, you will need to keep taking your medication(s). Your moods are stable because of medication, so if you stop taking it, the extreme mood swings are likely to return.