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Bipolar Disorder & Finding the Right Psychiatrist

Finding the right psychiatrist is a difficult task. For me it took almost 10 years and three different doctors. It seems like finding a doctor would be a simple thing, however it’s very personal and you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position when you speak with a psychiatrist.

By the time you get to a psychiatrist you have either spoken with your primary care doctor or a therapist who have referred you to go see the psychiatrist. So, you have already told someone your secret of not feeling well mentally and the fact that you feel like you need some help. Most people go to see a psychiatrist reluctantly.

When you go the first time you have to tell them everything you’re feeling. However, I have found through my studies, that at this first appointment not enough time is allowed and never is enough information given to the doctor to make a proper diagnosis. Most people will at first state they are feeling sad and be given an antidepressant or anxiety medication. They may be misdiagnosed and then rushed out the door. However, I believe the real work needs to come from the patient themselves and not the psychiatrist — and I will explain why.  

It has been my experience that a psychiatrist won’t know how to diagnose if the patient doesn’t know what that what they are feeling is a symptom, so it is many times overlooked. Often it takes the patient themselves doing the research and learning what their symptoms are to get the proper diagnosis. The doctors aren’t to blame though; they can only treat what they are told about. Nobody gets upset when you have a burst of energy and clean out two closets in three hours, so people don’t think to tell their doctor about it and things like hypomania there for are sometimes missed. It takes years of work with a doctor to get the proper diagnosis.

It also takes years once you have the right diagnosis to get the correct medications that are going to be the least harmful to you — with side-effects you can tolerate — but that also have the highest return on reducing your problematic symptoms. It is not easy and many people find themselves overwhelmed, giving up way before they find the relief that can come from proper care. However, it is normally a combination of medication and therapy that works best

My advice to those of you who are just starting with a doctor, stick with it, if the doctor doesn’t seem to care find a different one. You shouldn’t be just a name on a file to your doctor. Your doctor-patient relationship is important. Make sure it is someone you trust, can talk to and someone who doesn’t rush you out their door. Make sure they are open to suggestions. I always tell everyone, “you are your biggest advocate.” Most of all educate yourself. Read as much as you can about your diagnosis. Reading what others with bipolar go through helped me learn the proper language to talk to my doctor, it taught me how to tell him what was happening in my mind. Talking and discussing symptoms with your doctor is the fastest way to get the help you need.

Bipolar Disorder & Finding the Right Psychiatrist

Tosha Maaks

Tosha Maaks is a wife and mother of four teenage boys. She is living with bipolar disorder and ADHD along with generalized anxiety. Just when she thinks she has it all figured out she realizes that she never truly will. She writes about her life in the here and now as it is happening and her past with the episodes that have left the most lasting impressions. At only 38, and after 18 years of marriage she and her family support team work together diligently to make the most out of life.

APA Reference
Maaks, T. (2018). Bipolar Disorder & Finding the Right Psychiatrist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 5 Aug 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.