Why are primary care physicians so important?.
Campbell (2003) wrote that "Vanessa Sawyer can't pinpoint what pushed her over the edge. But she recalls the day her family made the difficult decision to commit her to a psychiatric ward. "I was at my parents" home in Sacramento," she recalls. "My mind was racing. It was near Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Suddenly I started telling everyone that I was the reincarnation of Rev. King. After my sister, Valerie, took me to the hospital, I saw a birth announcement on a bulletin board. I thought, I can die now. By this time, I believed that I was the Messiah who had come to save the children, and that the little newborn was here to take my place"" (p. 144). More than two million Americans suffer from some form of bipolar disorder, a persistent, severe, sometimes lethal, and lifelong illness (Campbell, 2003). Vanessa Sawyer, like many victims of this illness, struggled for fifteen years before climbing out of the deep dark pit. Primary care physicians play a critical role in recognizing, diagnosing, and treating this disorder. Many symptoms of bipolar disorder go either unrecognized or victims and families are in a state of denial. The illness doesn't disappear in spite of disbelief, worse it compounds as it prevents the patient from getting needed help. Upon presentation, primary care physicians must do a better job of diagnosing symptoms and providing safe long-term treatments in order to achieve the goal of managing this lifelong illness. .
What can primary care physicians do?.
Bipolar disorder is a hereditary brain disease caused by a chemical imbalance. Many people within the bipolar spectrum initially present to their primary care doctors, and they usually have symptoms of depression. Both Keck and Susman (2003) have acknowledged that it is challenging to recognize bipolar disorder among the greater number of patients with major depressive disorder.