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Pennsylvanians with bipolar disorder may wait years for diagnosis

Anyone in Philadelphia who has a debilitating illness knows how important governmental disability benefits can be. Whether it is because someone is unable to work because of an illness or because of an injury, Social Security disability insurance benefits are often necessary to pay for everyday living costs. Because they cannot work and disability benefits are so crucial to their survival, people on disability benefits should work with an attorney to ensure that their paperwork is properly filled out before submitting it to the Social Security Administration.

For most people applying for disability benefits, it is important to have a diagnosis that explains why they are unable to work. This means that if someone's condition is not diagnosed or is misdiagnosed, he or she may have to wait years before finally receiving disability benefits. This could be frightening to those Pennsylvanians living with bipolar disorder who may have to wait years before being correctly diagnosed.

A new study has been released that indicates that physicians and psychiatrists are extremely slow to diagnose bipolar disorder. Though the survey was done outside of Pennsylvania, it is likely that physicians in Philadelphia spend just as much time diagnosing an individual as the surveyed doctors. On average, it takes 13.2 years before an individual with bipolar disorder is diagnosed.

The staggering majority of people who go in for a diagnosis for their extreme mood swings, irritability, agitation, and poor sleeping and eating habits will be told that they are depressed. Of those who are misdiagnosed and put on treatment, 71 percent will report a worsening of their symptoms because of improper treatment. As these individuals wait to find both the correct diagnosis and the proper treatment, they may be unable to receive the Social Security disability insurance benefits that they need.

Source: The Guardian, "People with bipolar disorder may wait 13 years for diagnosis," Denis Campbell, June 26, 2012

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