A European specialist in the study of bipolar disorder says that more effective treatments for bipolar disorder are long overdue. He says that the problem is the result of a combination of several factors associated with bipolar disorder and would like to see the 'whole person' being treated for this condition, instead of just medicating the symptoms.

It's not really known just how many individuals are actually affected with bipolar disorder. Estimates range from a low of three percent of the U.S. population to a high of nearly 10 percent.

One of the problems with obtaining an accurate reflection of the number of people with bipolar disorder is the fact that it may take up to 10 years for an accurate diagnosis to be performed. And once diagnosis is complete, many - patients and doctors alike - find that treatment for bipolar disorder is not at all adequate.

Traditional treatment has turned out to be problematical at best for many with bipolar disorder. At its worst, it has resulted in high rates of non-adherence, explains Dr. Heinz Grunze of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany. Many of those afflicted with bipolar disorder, he explains, are told to take up to four different types of drugs daily. Keeping track of all of these can be very difficult at best for a healthy individual. It can be nearly impossible for some with bipolar disorder, the doctor explained.

Moreover, several of these medications have undesirable side effects including the gaining of weight, sleepiness as well as the triggering of sexual problems. It's not surprising, he says, that many with bipolar disorder either refuse to take them or do not take them regularly.

Very often a misdiagnosis only injures the effectiveness of treatment for bipolar disorder, the doctor said. Depressive symptoms of the bipolar disorder itself can be all too easily masked due to the concentration of preventing mania or trying to curtail drug abuse. Very often, those who have bipolar disorder, but have not been properly diagnosed, turn to drugs to deal with their symptoms.

But, the doctor warns, the opposite is also true. Individuals diagnosed with anxiety or depression are normally given antidepressants, which offer little help for the individual who really is suffering with bipolar disorder. In fact, these persons face a higher risk than persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder at having their mental condition deteriorate to a critical point.

This type of misdiagnosis is extremely common, Dr. Grunze explained. A recent survey of more than 7,500 individuals with bipolar disorder revealed that more than half of them received an antidepressant drug alone as their initial treatment for a depressive episode for the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It's well known, Dr. Grunze continued, that antidepressant medication alone is not effective for this mental healthbipolar disorder between the years 2001 and 2004. The results were presented at the 2007 American Psychiatric Association meeting. condition. The survey found that these persons were treated for