The Sucky Part of Dual Diagnoses


Like many of you, I have multiple mental illness diagnoses…ones in which symptoms overlap to the extent that I don’t know what I am experiencing sometimes.

Is it anxiety or hypomania? I tend to go into cleaning frenzies during both states. Is it depression or hypomania? I tend to neglect my self-care during both states? Is it bipolar or borderline personality disorder symptoms? Frequent mood swings and anger outburst appear upon exacerbations of both of these illnesses for me.

How do you distinguish between different diagnoses? Does making the distinction really matter?

For me it does…anxiety means a change in that med while mania means a change in another one. My doctor increased my antidepressant at one point in order to treat (what we thought was) my anxiety, and the change threw me into rapid cycling bipolar symptoms (a very scary place to be.)

Cycling mood swings calls for a look at my mood stabilizer OR maybe I just need to refocus my efforts on using DBT skills (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills are clinically effective for treating Borderline Personality Disorder.)

Depression and self-pity…is it clinical – meaning do I need a med adjustment or is it something that a few extra counseling sessions or sobriety support group meetings would alleviate?

I am grateful there are so many avenues of support and treatment for all of my disorders – counseling, support groups, skills, medications (both traditional and alternative.) However, knowing which one needs to be tweaked here and there can be quite frustrating.

Have you ever experience the frustration of having two or more diagnoses whose symptoms overlap? How do you distinguish between them or how do you cope with it? Please share. I really could use your insight.