Sinead O’Connor, and a Call for Mandatory PTSD Testing


Sinead O’Connor: 5 Things to Know About her Diagnosis
(Note: Sinead has been found safe & sound.)

To this list I’d add a sixth thing: PTSD is misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, depression and/or anxiety all the time.

Sinead was diagnosed with bipolar disorder @ 2005. Several years later, that diagnosis was changed to PTSD.

What happened to Sinead O’Connor also happened to me – only it took clinicians 10 years to even consider that childhood abuse and a rape in college were at the root of my anxiety and depression.

My opinion and my fear is that many others who have a history of trauma are also waiting years for the correct diagnosis.

Inspired by Her Story
Not long after receiving a bipolar disorder diagnosis, I watched O’Connor talk about her bipolar diagnosis on Oprah. I was riveted, and thrilled to hear from someone brave enough to speak of her troubles.

Now, we’ve come full-circle, at almost the same time. O’Connor’s bipolar disorder diagnosis was tossed out in 2012; I would journey to California in 2013 for the right diagnosis.

At 42, eight years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 17 years after my first diagnosis of depression, I finally received a diagnosis that led me to the most effective treatments: PTSD.

5.2 Million Americans Have PTSD
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year.

Now that I’ve found the right treatments, my goal is to help ensure that trauma survivors who indeed have PTSD are diagnosed quickly.

Treatments for PTSD – such as EMDR, exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy – are highly specialized. You’ll only get them if you receive a PTSD diagnosis.

Evidence-Based Care Guidelines to Enable Early Diagnosis of PTSD
One of my clients is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where I write articles and produce videos on quality and safety.

Along the way, I’ve learned that evidence-based care guidelines can be a great help to clinicians and patients. Cincinnati Children’s often leads the way in developing and implementing evidence-based care guidelines that are adopted at children’s hospitals across the U.S.

I’m no expert here, but I have an idea and nothing to lose: Let’s develop a PTSD evidence-based care guideline for psychiatrists and psychologists. We could start with these:

 If your patient has experienced trauma, your first course of action is to determine whether or not he or she qualifies for a PTSD diagnosis. If you do not specialize in PTSD testing for both veterans and civilians, refer your patient to some0ne who is an expert in this area.

If your patient qualifies for a PTSD diagnosis, review all of the PTSD treatment options with your patient. If needed, refer your patient to an practitioner who is experienced in the chosen treatment or treatments.

I know, I need letters behind my name to make these suggestions. And the guidelines need to be backed by research and clinical experience. Clinicians and researchers, that’s where you come in.

Having PTSD guidelines that mandate testing in everyone with a history of trauma would go a long way toward making sure those who have PTSD are diagnosed quickly and offered treatment options that have been proven effective for trauma.

This will save lives.

If something like this is already out there, then why is it not used in every case?

It’s time to ensure that trauma survivors don’t have to suffer – in many cases for years – while awaiting the right diagnosis and treatment.


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