Self Diag-nonsense

We’re all guilty of this. With the internet, it’s even easier to diagnose yourself. Everybody has taken the personality disorders test, probably multiple times. (How many times have you scored the exact same? I don’t keep track, so I don’t know)

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Wake up call. Those aren’t diagnostic tests. The same way as an online IQ test can’t tell you you have an IQ of 180: only a few people in the world ever have scored that high in real life, they don’t come around often, based on the Stanford-Binet test. A psychological test has to be carried out by a psychologist or psychiatrist in person (with the new teleconferencing stuff, maybe, I’m not sure) and can take a few weeks or months. I was assessed over 6 months after multiple hospitalizations and treatments. An IQ test is similar, it cannot be biased, and the person has to be assessed by the tester for their reatctions. A lot comes into play.

Basically, an online IQ test is just a test with different scoring. Instead of 0-100% it assigns a number. An online psychological test is the same thing, but they have disclaimers: not a diagnostic tool. (Don’t ever pay for either one!)

I can say I hit a lot of DSM criteria, but it’s easy to say that about myself. Other people can say I hit different criteria. To get 3 psychologists and 5 psychiatrists to agree on my diagnoses was kind of amusing, but they did agree. (For the record, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1, rapid cycling with psychosis, schizotypal personality disorder, later on ADHD inattentive type and at that time, EDNOS, which is currently in remission). I did have to do that damn 500 question test. Apparently I exaggerated (that was what everyone who took the test got accused of: they exaggerated!) so the results weren’t clear. The psychologist had to use her head instead of the computer. Poor thing. Okay, enough about me.

Insight is good. Being a know-it-all and changing your treatment plan, double doctoring, doctor shopping and more are not good. In socialized health countries (pretty much everywhere but the US) most of that is harder to do. I work with my psychiatrist with medications, that is, if I really hate his medication decision, I’ll let him know, he’ll reconsider. When I was discharged from inpatient care, it was a mutual decision. If I’ve heard of a new medication, I’ll ask about it, and he’ll fill me in, about how he thinks it would work me me, and then it usually ends in, “and your insurance doesn’t cover it yet”. (It generally takes a year from the med coming out for my insurance to cover it!)

I have never told a doctor, “I think I have..”, partly because I think it’s rude and I’m shy, and partly because I’m not a doctor. Well, except for when I broke my jaw and ribs. “I think I have a broken jaw” fit. If you recognize symptoms earlier because you have heard of them and are able to seek help earlier, that’s even better.

Doctors are often guilty of self diagnosis, especially during medical school. They think they have every disease in the book. Medical studentitis is the name it’s given, as a joke.

“When you self-diagnose, you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that diagnosis constitutes.”

Not all mood swings mean bipolar disorder(1) for example. Self diagnosis can get in the way of proper diagnosis. Everybody has mood swings, but certain criteria has to be met. Bipolar disorder is actually not that common, despite hearing about it all the time. A GP should be seen before a psychiatrist so physical illness can be ruled out first. Sometimes physical illness feins psychiatric illness.

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Even if you do not want conventional treatment for depression, you may want conventional treatment for a brain tumor.
Self diagnosis is underminig the doctor, too, not good for the relationship, and the doctor could just end it. The diagnosis isn’t what is being treated. That is used for insurance information, symptoms are being treated.

Here are a few problems with self diagnosis:

  • – You can be missing something you can’t see, for example, focusing too much on one thing and forgetting the rest.
  • – Thinking too much is wrong, or thinking not enough is wrong.
  • – It can interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and agitate the doctor (they do get agitated)
  • – It can get in the way of proper treatment
  • – It can be hard to accept a correct diagnosis, and you could be disappointed that you’re wrong if the doctor disagrees.

Let your doctor do the work, that’s his or her job.

Even a doctor cannot diagnose or treat him or herself. For a lack of a better phrase, it’s a conflict of interest!

“Be honest and upfront with your doctor and make sure to let him know all of your symptoms, even if you do not feel that they are important. Also disclose any and all medications you are currently taking as well as supplements to make sure that your doctor has all the information necessary to treat your illness.”(2)

  1.  The Dangers of Self Diagnosis
  2. The Internet and Self Diagnosis

Lithium Orotate – Consult a Doctor First

Consult a doctor

Consult a doctor

Just a quick response to my lithium orotate article.
Lithium orotate is lithium. Simple as that, it is just a different chemical formation. I have been called all sorts of names, a liar, an advocate for “Big Pharma” and so on. Lithium carbonate is probably the same price – it’s an inexpensive drug and it’s monitored by pharmacies, labs and you can’t buy it easily online and you know what you’re getting (in an ideal world, at least, you should know). Levels should be checked.

Lithium is dangerous to the kidneys in any formula, yes. However, lithium orotate is more dangerous. It is an over the counter supplement. This does not mean “safe”. Tylenol is deadly to the liver, for example, and is sold anywhere. Take enough, and you’ll need a new liver. What a crap example, I know.

Lithium has to be at a certain level in the blood to be therapeutic for the patient. I’m in a country (Canada) with socialized healthcare. I get blood tests for free, I get my meds cheap, yes, I have that advantage. (I can’t take lithium, but it did help for many years, I did end up with mild kidney disease called “diabetes insipidous”) It’s not the safest drug, I know that from experience. It has shitty side effects. It hasn’t changed much over the years. But it works.

Lithium orotate is dangerous simply because anyone can get it. Online supplements are more dangerous because you don’t know what you’re getting. People tend to abuse something advertised as “natural”, because “natural” sounds safe. Look at things like diet pills from GNC, a year later, they get banned because people end up with heart problems. The “healthy living store”.

I’m not saying all natural supplements are bad. But they all say to take with the advice of a doctor. Self prescribing anything is a bad idea. Especially for a psychiatric illness as serious as bipolar disorder. Especially with something like lithium. Blood levels are generally reduced to every 6 months, sometimes less once a dose is established.

A few things to remember.
Natural is NOT always safe.
Always consult a doctor, whether it be a GP or psychiatrist, before taking any over the counter medication or supplement. It could interact with something you already take, or even eat.

Be cautious if you order something online. The dose might not be accurate. It could contain something you don’t know of. It could contain something you’re allergic to. It could contain something that could come up on a physical or blood test as a false negative or positive.

A health food store doesn’t exactly have the most qualified people to give medical advice. This is medicine we’re talking about. Your mind and body. Again, see a doctor.

If you experience any weird side effects STOP.

Be cautious. Nothing works the same way for two people.

This is all my opinion. I do not have any links for you.

TrueHope EMPowerplus: True or False?

TRUEHOPE EMPOWERPLUS
First I’ll give the basic rundown on how I found this product, what it was supposed to do, and what happened to me. TrueHope EMPowerplus is an all natural, controversial, remedy for bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, such as ADHD or depression.
This is what the main website for TrueHope EMPowerplus has to say about it’s product. Pretty vague, eh?

EMPowerplus™ is a unique, micronutrient formula proven effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of bipolar, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 19 medical journal publications, plus many individual doctors’ observations, have shown significant reductions in the symptoms of bipolar and other mental disorders.
These 19 publications plus several more current and ongoing studies make EMPowerplus™ the most studied micronutrient formulation in the world for mental conditions. Studies in animals also suggest EMPowerplus™ can improve brain-cell health and cognitive functioning.

The unique technology used in the micronutrient formulation of EMPowerplus™ allows the body to rapidly absorb and use these essential elements for optimum physical and mental health. EMPowerplus™ is a safe, effective, all-natural formula for common mood disorders.

First, what is a unique, micronutrient formula? They use some interesting words we haven’t heard much before: Micronization and Chelation, followed by two that we understand more: Balance and Quantity.
What is micronization?

Particle size reduction is achieved through the use of fluid energy jet mills. The material is drawn into a confined, circular chamber by way of pressurized nitrogen gas or compressed air. The powder gets suspended in a high velocity fluid stream in the milling chamber. The mill operates on the principle of impact and attrition due to the high velocity collisions between particles suspended within the nitrogen gas or compressed air stream, causing them to breakdown into smaller particles. Centrifugal force causes large, heavy particles to separate from smaller and lighter particles. The smaller particles are carried in the fluid stream towards the center of the milling chamber, where they are discharged into a collection bag. Larger particles remain in the milling chamber where they recirculate, causing them to breakdown. Operational parameters are monitored throughout the process and are documented in the batch record.

Now, in english: Jet mills are used to pull in a material and it is broken down into smaller pieces, then collected, repeat.
But why do we want micronization? Well, it seems contamination is less of an issue, which is a good thing. It has a (no source cited) proven history. It works with a lot of products. It’s accepted and regulated by most agencies. There’s no heat used, so it’s eco-friendly. Okay, so they’re taking big particles and making them smaller. The pills are freaking huge though, so I guess micronization is a good thing.

Chelation, however, yields very few results that have anything to do with the production of these pills. From the TrueHope website,

“Minerals are difficult for the body to digest in pure form. To overcome this, EMPowerplus™ minerals go through a rigorous process that wraps them in organic molecules and binds them to proteins the body can easily recognize and digest. “

But where’s the proof? Most of the results were about chelation therapy, used for coronary diseases. It seems like they enjoy using big words that are hard to describe, even when broken down to basic chemistry.
As for Balance and Quantity, if you see the ingredients list, well, this gives you up to several thousand X’s the amount of certain vitamins, minerals and supplements, which can be dangerous.
My personal experience was through the TrueHope website and over the phone. I ordered the pills and stopped seeing my psychiatrist except to repeat my medications until I was completely off of them (I never completely got off the benzos though, withdrawal was harsh and I had to stop the EMPowerplus “therapy”)
At first, they tell you to take 1-3 pills a couple of times a day. It’s definitely a booster (and makes you pee neon yellow, sometimes green, from all the B-vitamins) and you can see an increase in your mood. If you want your doctor to get you on to this they have to order a DVD and book, at a cost to you. They have professionals on the phone to tell you how much prescription medication to take every week, and I don’t recall any of them being doctors, or even naturopaths.
The pills are big, they smell, and they’re hard to swallow. I got the initial boost and slowly tapered down on my medication. But then it happened, I was unable to sleep. I would get so frustrated in the night, I would be pacing around my room, yelling and screaming at nothing. I got angry, and frustrated. This is for bipolar disorder? I was in a mixed state most of the time I was on it. If I got anxious they told to take up to 24,000mg! Of inositol a day, to counter the side effects. I went to the health food store all the time to buy more remedies to help with this remedy.
The final straw was when I was upped to 15 pills a day and had several breakdowns, wanting to drop out of school. I was throwing up a half hour after taking the pills and not sleeping. I was irritable, I couldn’t concentrate (how does this work for ADHD?) and I found out I was allergic to something in the pills, which was causing the vomiting reaction. I consulted professionals and went back on my prescribed, psychiatric medication and don’t plan on doing that again. It was a waste of several hundred dollars and time.
I was taking approximately 4x’s that a day. That’s 16,000x’s my daily needed vitamin B12 regimen!
There are 11 or 19 studies saying this works, plus a book “A Promise of Hope” (where I heard about this remedy) pushing this remedy. It is supposed to “cure” 85% or more of treatment resistant bipolar patients.
According to TrueHope, to balance the serotonin and dopamine (they use “brain chemicals”, not the technical terms) we need to have proper vitamins. Proper, sure, a daily multivitamin won’t kill you, but do we need 16,000x’s our daily needed vitamin B12? And I was on a low dose! But mood disorders aren’t caused only by brain chemistry (more about that later). What about a placebo effect? EMPowerplus says that a placebo effect eventually “wears off” but they don’t cite their resources. Plus, they’re wrong. Placebo’s can work for ages.
So, in conclusion, as a treatment resistant sufferer of bipolar disorder type 1 who had been through ECT prior (I started TrueHope EMPowerplus in late 2009, and had ECT in July 2008, which helped more than any medication had in the past) this stuff is about as useful to my mood as a normal multivitamin. It just costs a lot more and doesn’t have FDA approval.