3 Misdiagnosed Mental Health Issues

3 Misdiagnosed Mental Health Issues

In mental health by Tree House Recovery

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of people with substance use disorders also have a co-occurring mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, or PTSD. Getting treatment for co-occurring mental health issues is essential for a successful recovery from addiction. Unfortunately, getting the right diagnosis isn’t always easy. Everyone is different and symptoms may be more or less prominent in different people. The following conditions are commonly misdiagnosed and may lead to a delay in effective treatment.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is perhaps the most frequently misdiagnosed mental health issue. That’s because depressive episodes of bipolar look exactly like unipolar major depression, with symptoms like depressed mood, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, fatigue, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide or death. People don’t typically seek help during manic episodes and these are what distinguish bipolar disorder from major depression. One study found that 69 percent of people with bipolar disorder were initially misdiagnosed and a third of those people remained misdiagnosed for 10 years or longer. This can lead to ineffective treatment and delayed recovery. If you go to your doctor about depression, be sure to mention if you also have manic or hypomanic episodes, which are typically characterized by having lots of energy, needing little sleep, being extremely productive, starting lots of new projects, or engaging in risky behavior. 


Depression is typically under-diagnosed in men for several reasons. The first is that men don’t recognize the symptoms of depression. While men may think depression is mainly characterized by sadness, men are more likely to experience depression as anger, irritability, or aggression. They may even suffer from unexplained physical pain, like chest pain, back pain, or headaches. Men are also far less likely than women to seek help for depression and more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Men with depression are also more likely to engage in risky behavior like driving recklessly or having unprotected sex. 


In some cases, a PTSD diagnosis is obvious. If a combat veteran or firefighter is having intrusive thoughts about a nasty incident, along with other symptoms, PTSD is probably a safe bet. However, trauma can take many different forms and some symptoms of PTSD might be more prominent than others. Victims of abuse sometimes don’t acknowledge they’ve been abused and men often feel extra pressure to be tough and not let things get to them. Sometimes PTSD can look like depression or anxiety. What distinguishes PTSD is the presence of other symptoms, such as reliving the trauma in dreams or flashbacks, avoiding things related to the trauma, forgetting significant parts of the trauma, and becoming hypervigilant or easily startled. If you’ve experienced these symptoms and a potentially traumatic event–or even a series of traumatic events–be sure to mention them to your doctor or therapist.


Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon uses cutting-edge techniques in individualized programs to help men achieve freedom from addiction. Taking a holistic, sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently.

No one is beyond help- our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474