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Correct diagnosis, proper medication, and access to medical help is essential to the quality of life of people with bipolar disorder.Diagnosis was a relief and disappointment for Päivi Storgård.

A mother with small children calls 112 after having collapsed on the kitchen floor because of mental problems. No ambulance arrives, however, because “mothers with small children are always a little tired”.

This is how Päivi Storgård describes bipolar affective disorder in her book. Even though the book, called Keinulaudalla, is a work of fiction, the experiences described in it are true.

It often takes years before bipolar affective disorder is diagnosed. The patient doesn’t necessarily understand that they are sick during a manic phase and fail to mention the episode to their doctor.

According to a specialist in psychiatry Minna Sadeniemi, the average time it takes to get a diagnosis after the first symptoms have occurred is eight years. Sadeniemi says that a diagnosis cannot be given if the patient’s first symptoms are similar to depression: the disorder cannot be identified until the first manic or hypomanic episode hits.

“The patient can feel so good during the period of elevated mood that they don’t feel sick,” Sadeniemi explains.

Journalist Päivi Storgård says that it took six years for her to be properly diagnosed.

“At first, I was treated for depression, which is absolute poison for a person with bipolar disorder because the medication is completely wrong,” Storgård explains.

Storgård was partially relieved to get the correct diagnosis. Finally there was an explanation for why she was behaving like she was and why life sometimes felt so difficult.

“On the other hand, it was a huge disappointment and loss because I thought that now I have a mental disorder, which makes me a bad person.

It was difficult for me to understand that it is an actual disease. It is not a question of my own choice.”

...

LIISA KUJALA – STT
Taru Laiho – HT
LEHTIKUVA / PIHLA LEHMUSJOKI

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