Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

2013 Bipolar Update

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

A bipolar disorder is a mental problem whose most common symptom is severe mood swings from depression to mania. For this reason, it is often referred to as manic depressive disorder or manic depression in its most serious stages. However, it is more commonly called bipolar mood disorder and/or bipolar affective disorder in modern times.

A bipolar disorder diagnosis is usually made when they has been one or more than one episodes of mania with or without one or more episodes of depression. During a manic episode, an individual has extreme excitement and euphoria, optimism, is very excitable, restless, hyperactive and may suffer insomnia. During a depressive episode, the person may lose interest in all activities, be very irritable, feel worthless and guilty, and suffer from lack of sleep.

A bipolar disorder diagnosis is not very easy to make because there are some other conditions with similar symptoms. In the past, bipolar disorder was quite often mistaken for other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression (unipolar depression) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Doctors will therefore rule out the other conditions with similar symptoms before making a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

To make a conclusive bipolar diagnosis, a physician will carry out several tests and assessments. This will include a comprehensive physical and medical exam that will include laboratory tests (this may include drug tests to rule out substance abuse). The physical and medical exam is for purpose of ruling out underlying medical or physical conditions. A complete medical and psychiatric history is also required. The doctor will also need to look into family medical history because there is at times a genetic link in bipolar disorders.

The physician will also need to evaluate the patient’s symptoms before making a bipolar disorder diagnosis. These symptoms are evaluated using criteria spelled out in what is called the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to this manual, there are 4 different types of bipolar disorder differentiated by severity of symptoms and how the manic and depressive episode cycle. These 4 different types are Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS).

Once a physician makes a bipolar disorder diagnosis, the patient should immediately be put on treatment. This is because if left untreated, the disorder becomes worse with more frequent and more severe manic or depressive episodes. There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder but the treatments are effective in aiding a person live a normal and productive life if they will only stick with them.