My First (and Hopefully Only) Psychiatric Assessment

I was suicidal and had a complete psychotic break last year. That was when I went to the psychiatrist my sister had been going to since 2019. He diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder.  However, the medicines didn’t work for me, even though he had given me the highest possible doses. I was on antidepressants, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, and mood stabilisers. I was also recommended to go to therapy, where I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was okay, but not completely fine. Thereafter, I went to rehab because of my obsessive suicidal thoughts. Twice, I found razors in my rehab bathroom.

Yes, let that sink in.

It had been 2.5 months since my unique rehab experience when I thought of getting a second opinion because, at this point, I was sure I had been wrongly diagnosed or was on the wrong medications. My sister was also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and our symptoms were so different that I could never be convinced of my diagnosis. Hence, I thought of getting a complete psychiatric assessment done. The doctor I consulted had more than 15 years of experience, so I was reasonably confident that he would be able to give me a proper diagnosis.

First, the general information. The tests can cost anywhere from Rs 3,500 to more than Rs 5,000, and the assessment generally goes on for two hours. Mine cost Rs 5,500, and I got the report in a week, but I’m sure that depends from psychologist to psychologist. If someone is going to get their assessment done, please bring someone with you as the psychologist confirms your ‘story’ with the person who comes with you, preferably a family member. I took my sister with me. According to me, the rule of having a family member accompany the patient makes sense in some cases. It is warranted if the person is in a terrible mental state. But many people come from specific family backgrounds where the family members are the ones that know the least about them. This rule only delays their diagnosis because their parents think they’re ‘completely fine.’

Now, coming back to my assessment. The psychologist began by asking questions about my childhood and my whole family. Then he focused on every symptom individually and asked me when I felt anxious and, basically, what were my triggers. Even though I did not feel comfortable for even a minute with him, I was trying my best to answer his questions truthfully. Everything was going as well as could be expected until he asked me about my previous diagnosis. I told him that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder because of really severe depressive episodes.

He was still unsure and asked me if I ever had feelings of grandiosity, extreme happiness, etc (primary symptoms of mania). I told him that even my manic symptoms were depressive, and only overspending was a ‘normal’ manic symptom I had. The next thing he said made me want to get up and leave immediately. He noted that bipolar cannot be diagnosed in women based on their spending habits. He joked, “ladies spend nahi karengi toh kaun karega?” I just sat there smiling and fuming. Then, when I told him about my binge-eating and excessive weight gain, he told me to ‘just stop eating so much.’ He told me to lose ten kgs in a month, and his report does not even mention anything about bingeing, as if it was a trivial matter.

The real shocker was when I received the report. Ignoring the hundreds of grammatical and spelling errors, the assessment report was bullshit. I may have less credibility since I’m the ‘patient.’ But at this point, anyone I know who has read that report is more offended than I am. The psychologist had written that I am an “emotionally immature individual who tends to experience and express affection in an overly dramatic and overly intense manner and whose effects are often shallow and superficial.”

Do you know what the best part is? He diagnosed me with Recurrent Depressive Disorder with Psychosis and Borderline Personality Disorder. Which is basically saying you have Bipolar Disorder but with extra steps. So, I had to sit through a two-hour interview with him for nothing.

Overall, the experience was draining for me. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else for the next two days. The way the psychologists analyse you and the whole trauma of picking your wounds again and making them believe you is exhausting. My friend got his assessment done, and he had a similar experience which makes me think whether there is a problem with how the evaluations are carried out generally. Maybe going to a therapist for a few sessions and getting comfortable with them before the assessment would’ve been a better idea. But, in my case, they were against starting any treatment before getting a diagnosis, so I guess I’ll never know.

Shaifali is a reader with an occasional need to rant.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty