Would BP Treatment Help Concentration
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Q:  Would BP Treatment Help My Concentration

I am a 21 year-old female, currently in my junior year of college. I've recently been wondering if some of the problems in my life could be described by bipolar II disorder, or perhaps an anxienty disorder. Most of my difficulties are academic, and stem from an marked in ability to concentrate. It is hard for me to read, complete lengthy papers, and finish assignments on a regular basis. With reading, for example, I will read a sentence, start thinking about other things, continue to read, and then realize that I have no idea what the reading material is about. Reading a short novel takes weeks.
I've noticed that my moods change every few monthes, and while not severe, also have an effect on my behavior. Currently, I'm in what might be described as "hypomanic"--I get 15-20 hours of sleep each week without decreased energy, I take on large projects that I have trouble finishing, feel exceptionally confident in social situations (I'm usually painfully shy), and engage in some potentionally risky activities. Several monthes ago, however, I experienced what might be "anxious depression" or social phobia. I avoided social situations, felt sad and irratible (though never suicidal), and slept 10-12 hours a day. This lasted around three monthes. I have never been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, nor visited a psychiatrist. My concern is that the problem which prevents me from accomplishing things, lack of concentration, tends to remain the same regardless of my moods. So even if I meet some of the criteria for bipolar disorder, I don't understand whether or not being treated for that would help me function better. My biological mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and my sister is currently being treated for severe unipolar deression.

Dear Ms. Curious -- 
You've given a very nice summary of symptoms that strongly suggest bipolar II but don't clinch it.  I'll bet you're having trouble sleeping at times, and that you have a tendency toward insomnia or decreased sleep in the more socially confident phases especially.  In any case, check out the website on bipolar II that includes a fairly lengthy discussion of the details I think you're looking for:
www.psycheducation.org .  Whether you decide "that's me" or not, it would be information you should have given that family history.

Dr. Phelps

 Published June, 2002


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