Tests for Bipolar Disorder
The severity and duration of the highs and lows can vary. It's important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to receive appropriate treatment.
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Bipolar Disorder Tests
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. It was formerly
referred to as manic-depressive disorder. According to the National
Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 10 million Americans live with
this condition. The word “bipolar” refers to the extreme highs and lows in mood.
These swings can affect your ability to perform everyday tasks.
A person living with bipolar disorder typically has periods
of mania. These can include extreme highs in mood, being extremely restless or
irritable, and grand, unrealistic thoughts (psychosis). These highs can be
followed by periods of depression, which can involve:
- trouble concentrating
- sleep problems,
- suicidal thoughts or actions
The severity and duration of the highs and lows can vary. It’s
important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to receive appropriate
treatment to control the disorder. Talk to your doctor to determine what type
of testing is best for you.
How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
According to the NAMI,
bipolar disorder can be diagnosed at any age, but more than half are first
diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. Other conditions have to be ruled out
first since there are no definitive diagnostic tests for bipolar disorder.
Tests that are usually done first include the following.
- physical exam:
This is a measurement of your weight, height, blood pressure, and an assessment
of your heart, lungs, abdomen, and nervous system. This is to see if there is evidence
of another condition responsible for your symptoms.
- blood and
urine tests: These tests can check for various other illnesses that may
present like bipolar disorder, such as thyroid problems, substance abuse, or
other hormonal imbalances.
evaluation: Your doctor will ask you about your moods, thoughts, and
behavior patterns. They may have you complete some mental health self-assessment
questionnaires. After your doctor gets your approval to do so, family members may be questioned about your
According to the National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (DSM) is used by doctors to diagnose bipolar disorder
according to specific guidelines. Bipolar disorder is subdivided into several
Which Bipolar Disorder Is Present?
There are several types of bipolar disorder, and the DSM
lists numerous criteria for each one.
- Bipolar 1
disorder involves having at least one manic or mixed episode. This usually
means your mood was extremely high, or mixed with agitation or irritability. A
depressive episode may not have occurred, but typically depression of two weeks
or longer has been present as well.
- Bipolar 2
disorder means you have had at least one major depressive episode and at least
one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is a less severe version of mania.
disorder means you have had multiple cycles of hypomania and depressions,
but have never had a full-blown mania or severe depressive episode. You have to
have had symptoms for at least two years according to the criteria for this
Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be challenging. It usually includes a mix of input,
- clinical interviews
- mood charting
- medical history
- family history
Medically Reviewed by:
Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD
Aug 29, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.