My Various Diagnoses, or, I Just Dropped in to See What Condition my Condition Was In.

Those who have read this blog from the beginning will know that I haven't always had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Indeed, my initial diagnosis, which I received when I first saw a psychiatrist back in 1996, was depression. I was first given Prozac to help with this condition, and later, when that seemed to have had little effect, other than giving me the shakes, a drug called Seroxat, which initially appeared to work, but then precipitated my first manic/psychotic episode. I was then given a diagnosis of bipolar, as it is known that those with the condition can often have an adverse reaction to antidepressants, with them often causing people to go into a manic state. Hence, antidepressants are, as far as I know, rarely prescribed for those with bipolar, precisely because of this effect. Later, when I had had another psychotic episode, I was given a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder, which basically describes a condition marked by both a disturbance in mood (which can be either depressive or manic) and a schizophrenic type of experience of psychosis. Even later than that, after a further episode of illness, it was as if my psychiatrist finally threw in the towel and came to the conclusion that what I may actually have been suffering from was the dreaded schizophrenia. This diagnosis was actually given in 2005, but if I remember correctly, I was only made aware of it a couple of years later, after I began writing this blog.
So, what to make of all this, other than that it seems I've experienced more or less every aspect of mental ill health? Well, I suppose for one thing, it appears to show how psychiatry can often be a case of, perhaps as it is with other branches of medicine, making educated guesses about what is actually wrong. My particular case seems to have been very complex, and it appears to me that psychiatrists are anyway often loath to diagnose someone with schizophrenia as it is seen as such a serious condition, having not only a great effect on your health, but also far-reaching social implications. The only problem is, that because of such difficulty in getting a diagnosis right, one may find oneself being treated for the wrong condition, in my case for a very long time indeed.
In fact, there still seems to be some doubt about what my condition actually is. The very last time I saw a psychiatrist, some time last year, he even asked me what I thought I might have been suffering from. Did I think it was schizophrenia, or bipolar? "You're an intelligent person", he said, "what do you think it is?" My answer was that I did indeed think that my current diagnosis was correct. After all, I had had many of the symptoms associated with that illness, and always, even from the outset of my problems, a feeling that there was more to my illness than the labels of either depression or mania could encapsulate.
But, there is, of course, another side to all this, and that is that my life may in fact become a little easier were I to have a different diagnosis. While having such a serious condition might work for me in terms of getting benefits (I was once told that I would get Disability Living Allowance for life, without having to go for any assessments), it might work against me now that I'm looking for paid employment. Could it be the case, perhaps, that with a diagnosis of bipolar I would be more likely to be successful in getting work? With many celebrities, most notably Stephen Fry, "coming out" as having bipolar, the stigma surrounding that particular condition seems to me to be less than that surrounding schizophrenia. Indeed, although in the past there have been quite a few notable cases of schizophrenia amongst famous people, in more recent times absolutely none, it appears, have come forward as suffering from the condition. The rates of the incidence of bipolar and schizophrenia are about the same, so why has no celebrity yet admitted that they have had experience of either psychosis or schizophrenic illness? Could it just be that the stigma surrounding these labels is still too great for anyone to risk admitting that they have experience of them?
So, my various diagnoses perhaps show not only that mental illness is rife with complexity, but that stigma might differ between different conditions. Indeed, I have spoken before of the sort of hierarchy of mental illnesses, with schizophrenia seeming always to come out at the top as the most stigmatised. This leaves me in something of a dilema, as having the correct diagnosis is important in getting the right treatment, but getting that diagnosis, if it is schizophrenia, can mean having to cope with more social difficulties. And, with so many different diagnoses at some stage being given to me, can I really be sure that what I have suffered from can be placed under one, single umbrella? Indeed, if my case were to be put into the diagnostic manual, perhaps they'd have to invent a new category for me!     


bazza said…
That's it David! You are unique. One of a kind.
Actually this is a beautifully written summary of your diagnostic history and it makes disturbing reading. I don't think that you are trying to imply that the doctors were incompetent but that they have an extremely difficult task because there is not much physical evidence for them.
You may be right about an hierarchy of stigma but I am sure many people lump all mental illness under one 'label'.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
Lost in Space said…
I relate to a lot of this post, as I also have had changing diagnosis over the years, and been on meds that didn't help at all. To be honest, I wish there was a blood test that could prove one way or another what we actually have. That would make it a lot easier for both the doctors (knowing what to prescribe) and us (having an answer to explain our experiences).
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Having read this historical account of the complexities and the dilemmas involved with your altering diagnosis, it seems to me that you are one of a kind, unique and perhaps a new category should be made just for you.
Somehow, I know you aren't into labels. Let us hope that through continued awareness, the stigma attached, will be reduced even further.
With very best wishes, Gary
Dixie said…
Well said, David! It's good to reflect in order to bring current the issues you still face, and the issues resolved. It is not unusual for an individual to improve enough to recognise a mistake was made.

Unfortunately, in my case, the arrogance of my psychiatrist was an issue by itself. He would not listen to what I was telling him. His 'readied' answer was: "I simply dispense drugs."

And so he did, and they were the wrong ones. They disabled my life further. I recall it took seeking another professional to aid me in adjustments to the new living hell. For me it affect the way people 'see' me or rather not 'see' me. But today I do not allow their feelings or opinions to cloud my life.

Always question David. Keep moving forward. Your research can be of great value to many others, as well as yourself.

In peace, Dixie
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, of course, I am a one off! As we all are, though, I suppose.
I think it is difficult for both doctors and patients, and I have often been told that psychiatry is not "an exact science". In fact, it would seem, and according to some, it's not really scientific at all. It would be nice if there were more physical evidence that doctors could draw on in their diaagnoses, but, at present, this doesn't appear to be there.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Lost in Space,
It's nice to hear from you again.
And, coincidentallly, the other day at the Media Action Group, we were saying that it would be good if one could just have a blood test to prove what was wrong. Unfortunately, as we both know, this doesn't happen, but as you say, it would make things a lot easier for both doctors and patients.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Gary,
Yes, you could say that I'm not really into labels. My experiences might just come under a wider definition of "mental ill health". And, I do hope that this blog raises at least some awareness of mental illness, as do your own admirable efforts.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for your supportive comments. And I do hope that what I write may be of value to others, as well as being a sort of catharsis for me.
Also, you seem to have had a pretty rough time yourself, Dixie. But I guess it just shows how resilient you have been in overcoming those difficulties. It is something, I think, to be proud of yourself for.
Very Best Wishes,

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