What Will My Doctor Ask Me
To make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, your doctor will ask you about:
- How many symptoms you experience
- Which types of mood episodes you experience
- How long your mood episodes last for
- How many mood episodes you’ve had
- How often your mood episodes occur
- How your symptoms impact your life
- Your family history
They may also:
- Ask you to keep a diary of your moods to help you both identify patterns and triggers.
- Check up on your physical health. For example, some conditions like thyroid problems can cause mania-like symptoms.
Only a mental health professional like a psychiatrist can give you a bipolar disorder diagnosis not your GP.
However, if you’re experiencing bipolar moods and symptoms, discussing it with your GP can be a good first step. They can refer you to a psychiatrist, who will be able to assess you.
For more information see our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.
Once properly diagnosed, I knew the cause. I understood that I was someone with an illness. I was not a failure, not a bad person.
What Can I Expect After Treatment
For most people, a good treatment program can stabilize severe moods and provide effective symptom relief. Treatment that is continual has proven more effective in preventing relapses. Those who also have a substance abuse problem may need more specialized treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/27/2018.
Clear Signs Of Sadness
The single most prominent sign of a depressive episode is extreme feelings of sadness. Like feelings of happiness, they may appear suddenly.
This sadness can be overwhelming. A person may not find humor in things that they used to laugh at. They may withdraw from important activities and social gatherings.
Other negative feelings may accompany sadness. A person may feel empty. They may feel like they dont have anything important to say.
Despite knowing that they are in a depressive episode, they may feel like their sadness will never go away. They may notice that their feelings are making other people sad.
This can cause their feelings to get worse. They may remain unconvinced of their worth, even when shown examples of it.
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Key Points About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Misdiagnosis: Why Does It Happen
Bipolar disorder is frequently misdiagnosed. According to recent medical research, around 20% of people with bipolar disorder may be mistakenly diagnosed with depression. This occurs because the symptoms of bipolar II disorder are similar to those of major depressive disorder, with most people experiencing more depressive episodes than periods of hypomania.
What’s more, unlike full-blown mania, hypomania is easy dismissed as someone being “normal” or seeming more productive and sociable than usual. Some people misunderstand the symptoms of bipolar disorder and think they can’t possibly have the condition because their mood changes don’t follow a regular pattern.
Bipolar disorder doesnt always present as we see it in movies and on television. If you think youre experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as episodes of depression and mania or hypomania, you must consult your doctor, who will refer you for help and treatment.
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What Can A Blood Test Detect
Blood testing as a basis for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder or depression is still in its early stages. But there has been promising research in the past few years.
Recent studies have explored the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor . This molecule has a big impact on learning and memory. Its expression, however, is complex. Scientists have found links between mood disorders and the levels of proBDNF and mBDNF in the blood.
A 2017 study of 105 participants found levels of mBDNF in the blood of people with bipolar disorder was lower than in those with MDD. Further, the ratio between mBDNF and proBDNF in the bipolar disorder group was also lower than in those with MDD.
The researchers noted this was a promising development, as people with bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed with MDD. A blood test therefore could help identify those with bipolar disorder experiencing depressive episodes.
A 2021 study of a new assay test showed its possible to diagnose low blood mBDNF levels in people with MDD or bipolar disorder within an accuracy rate of 80 to 83 percent.
Bipolar Disorder Self Test
When people hear the word, mental illness, they often think of depression or schizophrenia. Those conditions should be on everyones mind. But people should be aware of bipolar disorder as well.
2.6 percent of Americans have bipolar disorder. That totals 5.7 million people. It cuts across all demographic groups, affecting men and women alike in equal proportions.
Many people are aware of a few symptoms of it. They may fill out a bipolar self-test that focuses on mood swings and feelings of anxiety.
Try this self test to see if you might have bipolar disorder:
This test should be used as an educational tool. It is not a replacement for a proper diagnosis of any mental health disorder. If you are experiencing mental health issues, please contact a professional as soon as you can. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
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Is Bipolar Under Or Over
Many people believe that bipolar II is under-diagnosed and that more people have the condition than we realize. On the other end of the spectrum, some researchers believe that bipolar disorder is over-diagnosed because of the pressures put on doctors not to miss symptoms. Aggressive marketing of mood-stabilizing medications by pharmaceutical companies could also be to blame, according to a 20-year research review that was published in 2016.
Misdiagnosis can be dangerous, not simply because of unmanaged symptoms of mania or depression. If you are misdiagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants when you actually have bipolar disorder, for example, your medication may trigger symptoms of mania. What’s more, someone who believes that they have treatment-resistant depression may never receive appropriate treatment for what is actually bipolar disorder.
Do Other Illnesses Mimic Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Mood swings and impulsive behavior can sometimes reflect psychiatric problems other than bipolar disorder, including:
- Substance use disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Certain anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder
Psychosis can occur not only in bipolar disorder but other conditions such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. In addition, people with bipolar disorder often have additional psychiatric problems such as anxiety disorders , and social anxiety disorder), substance use disorders, or personality disorders that may complicate an illness presentation and require independent treatment.
Some non-psychiatric illnesses, such as thyroid disease, lupus, HIV, syphilis, and other infections, may have signs and symptoms that mimic those of bipolar disorder. This can pose further challenges in making a diagnosis and determining the treatment.
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What To Do Before Diagnosis
Before your diagnosis, you may experience rapidly changing moods and confusing emotions. It can be hard to describe exactly how you feel, but you may know that something isnt right.
Bouts of sadness and hopelessness can become intense. It can feel as if youre drowning in despair one moment, and then later on, youre optimistic and full of energy.
Low emotional periods arent uncommon from time to time. Many people deal with these periods due to everyday stresses. However, emotional highs and lows associated with bipolar disorder can be more extreme. You may notice a change in your behavior, yet youre powerless to help yourself. Friends and family may also notice changes. If youre experiencing manic symptoms, you may not see the need to get help from a doctor. You may feel great and not understand the concerns of those around you until your mood shifts again.
Dont ignore how you feel. See a doctor if extreme moods interfere with daily life or if you feel suicidal.
What Are The Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar mood changes are called mood episodes. You may have manic or hypomanic episodes, depressive episodes or mixed episodes . Elated mood can range from fairly mild through to extremely elated mood, known as mania. In a manic episode you may:
- feel very up or high
- feel jump or wired
- talk really fast about a lot of different things
- be agitated, easily irritable or touchy
- have trouble relaxing or sleeping
- think you can do a lot of things at once and be more active than usual
- do risky things, like spend a lot of money or engage in sexual activities outside of your normal sexual behaviour.
Depression might be identified by extreme tiredness despite sleeping a lot, bouts of uncontrollable crying, loss of interest and motivation, feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless for some time and having thoughts about dying.
In a depressive episode you may:
- feel very down or sad
- feel worried and empty
- lose interest in fun activities and become less active
- feel tired or slowed down
- have trouble sleeping
- think about death or suicide.
These behaviours may develop slowly, so it can be hard to tell whether some are part of your normal character. It can be helpful to ask significant others in your life who know you well whether they have noticed some unusual behaviour. In extreme cases, the symptoms are very intense and you may put yourself or others at risk or feel ashamed after you have recovered.
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What Are The Complications Of Bipolar Disorder
If left untreated, bipolar disorder can lead to longer and more severe mood changes. For example, episodes of bipolar-related depression can last up to 6 months, while manic episodes can last up to 4 months without ongoing treatment.
Someone living with bipolar disorder may also have a higher risk of the following:
- unhealthy weight
- suicidal thoughts
Some of these problems may need to be managed at the same time as bipolar disorder.
With the right treatment and support, most people with bipolar disorder can live productive and fulfilling lives.
How To Increase The Chance Of Getting The Correct Diagnosis
- Use an online screening tool that is written in plain language. The mood disorder questionnaire and the bipolar spectrum disorder scale can be found easily online for example, here and here. They can correctly identify about 75% of people who do have bipolar disorder. They can misidentify 10 to 15% of people who screen positive but turn out not to have bipolar disorder upon further investigation. Bring this screen to your doctor to encourage them to take a more thorough history that can steer them toward the correct diagnosis.
- Include partners, family members, or close friends in your evaluation with your doctor. While people with undiagnosed bipolar disorder can easily identify depressive moods, family and friends are more likely to recognize the manic symptoms such as increased energy and activity.
- If you have been diagnosed with depression, ask your doctor to screen for bipolar with every new episode and with every anti-depressant failure. One screening for bipolar is not enough. Every episode of depression can increase the risk for a switch into mania or hypomania.
In her book, Prozac Monologues , Willa Goodfellow tells her personal story and shares her road to recovery. She also lists books, articles, and organizations she found most helpful along the way. She is a wonderful example of how people can educate themselves and become full partners in their own treatment.
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Reflect On Your Symptoms
To help better understand your symptoms and pinpoint patterns in your behavior and mood, consider these questions:
- When do you first remember experiencing intense mood changes?
- How long do these changes typically last?
- What happens when you feel this way?
- How do you behave during an episode?
- What does your daily life look like during these times?
- What symptoms are you currently experiencing? When did they start?
- When do your symptoms tend to worsen?
Types Of Bipolar Test
These are some that a Doctor can perform to examine if you have Bipolar Disorder:
This is one of the bipolar disorder test. This blood test is used to rule out other illnesses that can trigger bipolar disorder. Its also used to determine if the patient has any thyroid issues. . It may screen for anemia as well as various illnesses. You can also test vitamins and calcium using these tests.
Tests for a variety of diseases and disorders are also done, including MRA to look for organ abnormalities. Blood tests, thyroid function tests, hormone levels.
The doctor will now inquire about your symptoms, treatments used. He or she can also ask about other medications youre taking. He or she will enquire any other relevant information to diagnose Bipolar Disorder. These are some of the screening exams that can help:
Some Other Tests
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What Can I Do If I Think A Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder
If you suspect that a loved one has bipolar disorder, talk with the person about your concerns. Ask if you can make a doctorâs appointment for the person and offer to accompany the person to the visit. Here are some tips:
Bring with you a summary of all medications that you are taking. Some medicines can have negative effects on mood and could play a part in understanding your symptoms.
Who Experiences Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder usually begins in older teens and young adults, with at least half of all cases appearing before age 25. Children and adolescents, however, can develop this disease in more severe forms and often in combination with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder . Some studies have indicated that bipolar depression is genetically inherited, occurring more commonly within families.
While bipolar disorder occurs equally in women and men, women are more likely to meet criteria for bipolar II disorder. Women with bipolar disorder may switch moods more quickly this is called “rapid cycling.” Varying levels of sex hormones and activity of the thyroid gland in the neck, together with the tendency to be prescribed antidepressants, may contribute to the more rapid cycling seen in women. Women may also experience more periods of depression than men.
An estimated 60 percent of all people with bipolar disorder have drug or alcohol dependence. It has also been shown to occur frequently in people with seasonal depression and certain anxiety disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder .
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Mental And Psychiatric Exam
Your doctor will also try to recommend you to a psychiatrist to check if you have any emotional problems and problematic behavioral patterns that may cause you to have bipolar disorder.
You will also be asked to have to answer a psychological questionnaire so they can assess and gather any specific information from you in order to evaluate the problems that you may have mentally.
Benefit Of Getting An Assessment
Obtaining a diagnosis, for any condition, is often the step towards an improved life. A diagnosis will enable the person diagnosed to access information relevant to them, to obtain specific and tailored treatments and where relevant medication.
With the right support and / or outlook a diagnosis can be extremely comforting, especially if a condition has been present for some time.
Whether you share your diagnosis with others or keep it private it can benefit interpersonal relationships including family, friends and work – making life easier.
If your assessment provides a negative diagnosis, that is that you dont meet the criteria for this specific diagnosis, that can be equally as rewarding. Plus, our trained clinicians will advise if they recognise any potential, further, avenues for consideration.
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How Long Does It Take To Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
Diagnosing the disorder can be done in one or two assessment sessions, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. However, because bipolar disorder can be confused with other disorders such as depression and borderline personality disorder, getting the correct diagnosis can take some time.
For example, some research suggests that it takes an average of three and a half years to confirm a diagnosis of bipolar disorder after the first major mood episode, with other research suggesting it can take even longer, Rego says.
Who Is This Quiz For
Below is a list of 10 questions designed for people who are concerned about schizophrenia. Read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges.
If you have any been struggling for a month or more and those struggles have caused difficulties in functioning for the past six months, let your doctor know. This interactive quiz has been structured in a manner to allow for a short and simple self-assessment. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and are based on criteria in the DSM-5.
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