Is it anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder?

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Once fun-loving, outgoing, and energetic, Ms. R says she began feeling unusually anxious 3 years ago. A psychiatrist diagnosed bipolar disorder type II based on her racing thoughts, irritability, low energy, and history of mood swings. Over 2 years, the psychiatrist tried combining valproic acid with bupropion, citalopram, or extended-release venlafaxine, then tried lithium monotherapy. Nothing worked.

Frustrated, Ms. R left the psychiatrist and consulted her primary care physician, who prescribed gabapentin, 200 mg each morning and 300 mg at night; fluoxetine, 50 mg/d; and quetiapine, 12.5 mg/d. Ms. R noticed no improvement and stopped the medications after 6 weeks. The physician urged her to see another psychiatrist, and she presented to us 2 weeks after stopping the medications.

Ms. R also has been feeling depressed and irritable the past 4 months and has trouble falling and staying asleep at night. She sleeps 4 to 5 hours nightly, constantly feels tired, cannot concentrate, and overeats to try to alleviate her stress. She has gained 6 pounds over 2 to 3 months and weighs 160 lb; her body mass index of 26 indicates she is overweight.

She says her worries overwhelm her and cause heart palpitations and muscle tension in her neck and shoulders. She admits to feeling “worthless,” but denies suicidal thoughts.

Ms. R describes her husband and two teenage daughters as “very supportive,” but admits that her fatigue and irritability have strained these relationships; she says she snaps at them for minor things, such as coming to dinner 1 minute late. She misses her job, which she recently quit because of her decreasing ability to function.

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