Woman, 42, misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient needed by the body. Mainly found in animal products such as meat, cheese and eggs, it helps create healthy blood cells. Without properly functioning red blood cells the body is unable to transport oxygen around, resulting in a myriad of debilitating symptoms.

Due to where it comes from, vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of becoming deficient in B12.

There are plant-based foods that contain B12, such as certain fortified cereals and yeast extract, but if this is not enough it is recommended that they take daily supplements.

This was an issue for one 42-year-old whose story was shared by B12 Info.

Known as Sara, the patient was actually misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and sectioned because of the psychological symptoms of the deficiency.

The case study explained: “Sara was vegetarian from her early teens until her early thirties.

“Her eyesight was affected at age eighteen and by her thirties severe depression had set in.

“Her periods became progressively more painful and tinnitus and chronic fatigue began.

“Sara, like many others, had never been screened for physical causes for her depression.

“She was misdiagnosed with bipolar and was sectioned following a psychotic episode.

“Her doctor was completely unaware of the psychiatric manifestations of B12 deficiency and initially refused to even test for either thyroid issues or B12 deficiency, both of which can cause psychosis.

“Once tested she was shown to be deficient but was refused treatment as the doctor insisted there were no symptoms present.

“This doctor was totally unaware of the myriad symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.”

Full list of symptoms experienced by Sara:

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Mania
  • Psychosis
  • Tinnitus
  • Glossitis (an inflamed tongue)
  • Premature greying
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Heavy periods
  • Weight loss
  • Visual disturbance.


After various visits to doctors Sara was eventually prescribed the right dosage of B12 that aided her recovery.

“A second doctor would only prescribe low dose oral B12 which was entirely useless for the advanced neurological symptoms,” the study said.

“Eventually after changing doctor a third time, injection loading doses were given. Luckily Sara is now in safe hands with a doctor who has updated their previously poor knowledge of B12 deficiency.

“She was prescribed every-other-day B12 injections for some time and now self injects every week and takes folate daily and a good B complex.

“Her depression and anxiety improve every day, her periods are far less painful and her tinnitus is quietening.

“Once Sara was given ferrous sulphate to raise her low ferritin levels her chronic fatigue improved enormously and she is now firmly on the road to recovery.”

If you think you have a B12 deficiency you should see your GP.

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