Great question... and to answer your question directly, military docs are not particularly known for being any more or less competent than civilians. In fact, the range of quality in physicians in general is perhaps more to blame for your bad experience than anything peculiar to the military itself. The only thing I can think of is that the meds for bipolarity will affect your performance in your duties more than a straight anti-depressant... but otherwise, there should really be no reason to pull a punch when it comes to diagnosis. The doc s strive for accuracy, despite possibly having a poor "bedside manner" (like you described in feeling like you weren't taken seriously). At the very least, poor communication on his part is clearly present.
But here's the deal: an anti-depressant will do one of two things, depending upon which "family" it belongs to... if you really ARE bipolar (and you have strong family evidence, although I - obviously - cannot make that determination/diagnosis over the internet) and you take a medication in the SNRI family, then it may kick off a manic episode, which would be bad. If you take an anti-depressant in the SSRI family, then your depressive symptoms may abate, but it will not reel in any manicky-symptoms, and again may shoot you up past "normal" (less likely to kick off mania than an SNRI, though).
So I would get another opinion if you feel that your symptoms are having a negative effect on your life, your military service, etc. Even if you are not full-bore bipolar, you may be either cyclothymic (sort of a minor-league bipolar) or have a condition called "Bipolar II" which means that you suffer through the depressive phases of bipolarity, but do not hit the top floor of mania - you only get to a point called "hypomania," which means that you have some of the sped up symptoms without being totally out of control manicky. If either of these is the case with you, the depression will be easier to spot/evaluate than the mania, so the bipolarity may be missed in favor of a depression diagnosis.
I hope that made sense! So get that second opinion before you proceed, if a second opinion is available. If you are satisfied with the response, please hit "Accept." That is the only way I can receive credit for my answer. Thanks-
Just one more question... What can Nero psych. testing tell?
That's okay - another good question.
And first, it's probably not for you, given the scenario you laid out in your question. In general, neuropsych testing is designed to assess neurological insults (i.e., brain damage). It gives the treatment team a more accurate idea of which parts of the brain have been affected by the insult, and also the extent to which the damage has occurred. That is how it works for patients your age - a lot of the patients tested by neuropsychologists are older folks who come in to determine the extent and prognosis after dementia is suspected.
Say what????? Look, either you misunderstood what was said to you, or he is remarkably inaccurate in his understanding of bipolarity. Hallucinations are actually possible in bipolarity (bipolar with psychotic features), but this phenomenon is reasonably rare... and certainly not a necessary condition to diagnose a person. Most folks who are bipolar do not hallucinate - the hallmark of the disorder is in the sine-wave of mood swings that become apparent when you take a detailed personal history.
Wow... seriously, get a second opinion, okay? If nothing else, just work to get through the time being, and then see a doc back at home when you have some leave time.
If you are satisfied with the response, please hit "Accept." That is the only way i can receive credit for my answer. Thanks-
Honestly, I know you are feeling a bit frustrated with your experiences within the military system, so a civilian may feel more comfortable for you. Plus, if there actually has been a hidden agenda, the civilian doc would not be hampered by any military protocol.
In general, I would think that you would receive equal treatment with either, but going to a civilian would at least give you peace of mind that you are being given a straight-forward appraisal.