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Bipolar Disorder: Should You Get a Second Opinion?

A second opinion may offer additional insight to your diagnosis and your treatment options.

A second opinion can offer insight into your diagnosis and your treatment options for bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes intense shifts in mood, behavior, activity levels, concentration, sleep patterns, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are treatments, and the condition can be managed. Successful treatment and management often depend on finding the right provider to work with.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be looking for a second opinion. A second opinion is the opinion of a healthcare provider other than your current one. It can offer insight into your diagnosis and your treatment options.

Why get a second opinion

Here are some scenarios in which a person may want to seek a second opinion:

  • You’re questioning your diagnosis. Bipolar disorder can sometimes be misdiagnosed as another mental health condition. You may have doubts about your diagnosis, or you may want to hear another professional’s thoughts about what you are experiencing.
  • You’re not responding to treatment. If you’re being treated for bipolar disorder but your symptoms aren’t improving, it may be time to seek the advice of another healthcare provider. They may have insight into different treatment options or may re-evaluate your current medication dosages.

How to get a second opinion

If you decide you want a second opinion, here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Connect with your insurance company. Reach out to your health insurance company about the type of coverage they provide for a second opinion. You’ll also want to find out if there are any special instructions you need to follow, like getting a referral from your primary care provider.
  2. Check in with your current healthcare provider. If you’re comfortable, you can mention to your current healthcare provider that you’d like to get insight from an additional healthcare provider. Remember that second opinions are common, and many providers are used to this kind of request. Your current healthcare provider may be able to recommend someone. If you don’t feel comfortable having this conversation, you can get a recommendation through your insurance company or by looking for local healthcare centers.
  3. Schedule a visit with the second healthcare provider. You’ll want to schedule the appointment far enough out that your medical records will arrive before your appointment.
  4. Get a copy of your medical records. Reach out to your current healthcare provider’s office to obtain a copy of your medical records. You can choose to have the records sent to you or you can have them sent to the healthcare provider who will be giving a second opinion.
  5. Prepare for your appointment. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of the new appointment. Are you looking for your diagnosis to be reevaluated? Are you curious about other treatment options? It’s also a good idea to make a list of symptoms you’ve been having and any patterns you’ve noticed. Writing down this information ahead of time and bringing it to your appointment will be helpful for you and the healthcare provider.
  6. Go to your new appointment. The second healthcare provider may be in alignment with your current healthcare provider, or they may have a different opinion about your diagnosis and treatment. Either way, you will now have more information that you can use to guide your next steps.

Staying empowered and informed

Bipolar disorder can be managed, but it involves ongoing treatment and monitoring by a healthcare professional. Receiving an accurate diagnosis is essential to proper treatment. Treatment is a bit different for every person, but usually involves a combination of medication plus psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy.” When it comes to both your diagnosis and treatment, it’s important you’re working with a healthcare provider you have confidence in.

Article sources open article sources

American Psychiatric Association. What Are Bipolar Disorders?
National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bipolar Disorder.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. Your Rights Under HIPAA.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Living Well with Bipolar Disorder.
Mayo Clinic. Bipolar Disorder.
MedlinePlus. Bipolar Disorder.

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