To get an accurate bipolar disorder diagnosis is to make a right step on the road to successful bipolar disorder treatment. It’s not always manageable. Bipolar mood changes are pretty hard to differentiate from other psyche problems such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and borderline personality disorder. Sometimes some people have to change numerous doctors before the problem is unmasked and diagnosed correctly.
It may present difficulties even for a qualified specialist to get a precise bipolar disorder diagnosis, so you’d better go to an experienced psychiatrist rather than to a doctor at your local clinic.
The experienced psychiatrist, who specializes in treating bipolar disorders, will most likely be better informed about the newest researchers in this field and he’ll know the advanced methods of treatment. He must also keep in touch with other specialists, making your healing therapy more effective.
Bipolar disorder diagnosis: What to expect during the diagnostic exam?
The process of the diagnostic exam, as a rule, consists of the following steps:
- Psychological evaluation – a specialist will conduct a thorough and complete psychiatric anamnesis (collecting the data and creating medical history). You will need to answer the questions and describe the symptoms you’ve experienced, history of your problems, family history of mood disorders, all the treatment you have ever (if any) tried to take.
- Medical history and physical – there are no special tests that would determine whether you have bipolar disorder. But your doctor must examine your medical history and perform a physical examination to strike off the diseases and medications that may trigger your symptoms. For example, screening for thyroid disorders is particularly important, because they can cause mood changes, which imitate bipolar disorder symptoms.
In addition to these steps, the doctor might want to discuss the peculiarities of your mood and behavior with your family and friends. It happens, that sometimes people around you might provide the psychiatrist with the more accurate, full and unbiased description of your symptoms.
Diseases and medications which can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder:
- thyroid disorders
- adrenal disorders (e.g. Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome)
- antianxiety drugs
- drugs for Parkinson’s disease
- vitamin B12 deficiency
- neurological disorders (e.g. epilepsy, multiple sclerosis)
Types of Bipolar Disorder
We’ve already discussed the types of bipolar disorder in one of the previous articles, but allow us to remind you them in a few more words.
Every type of the disorder is identified by the pattern of both episodes: manic and depressive. The treatment can be changed accordingly to the type of the bipolar disorder diagnosis you have.
- Bipolar Disorder I (mania and depression) – a classic manic-depressive form of the illness, and the most common type of the disorder. It is characterized by at least one manic or mixed episode. Usually, but not always, Bipolar Disorder I involves at least one depressive episode though it’s not an important condition for an accurate diagnosis.
- Bipolar Disorder II (hypomania and depression) – here a person doesn’t experience full-scaled manic episodes. Instead, the illness includes hypomania and a severe depression stages. If you have gone through at least one manic episode – the diagnosis will be changed into Bipolar Disorder I.
- Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) – a mild form of bipolar disorder. As the previous bipolar types, it includes only cyclical mood swings. However, the symptoms are less severe than during the full-blown mania or depression. You must have experienced numerous stages of hypomania and a mild depression over at least two years to be diagnosed with this type of bipolar disorder. This is the type of the condition which should be monitored constantly and treated timely because people with cyclothymia have higher chances to develop a full-blown bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder or Depression?
Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as a depression. It happens because usually bipolar people look for help when they are in a depressive stage. It is unlikely that the person in manic stage would go to the doctor since he doesn’t recognize the problem. Besides, most people with bipolar disorder diagnosis are depressed most of the time instead of being in manic or hypomanic stages.
Being misdiagnosed is fraught with wrong treatment. Bipolar disorder treatment differs hugely from the depression treatment. Actually, the antidepressants that are useful in treating the regular depression can worsen the bipolar disorder case. That’s why it’s really important to ask the specialist for help in time. He will help you to determine what is really going on.
Indicators that your depression is a bipolar disorder
- You’ve experienced repeated episodes of major depression.
- The first depressive episode revealed itself before you were 25 years old.
- You have a relative with Bipolar Disorder I.
- When you’re not depressed, your mood and energy level are higher that most people’s.
- When you’re depressed, you sleep a lot and overeat.
- The depressive episodes are short, less than 3 months.
- When you’re feeling depressed, you lose contact with a reality.
- You’ve had postpartum depression before.
- You’ve had manic and hypomanic episodes while taking antidepressants.
- Your antidepressants stopped working after a few months.
- You’ve tried 3 or more antidepressants without success.
If the bipolar disorder diagnosis has been set, it’s the right time to start the treatment. You will be explained all the treatment options and probably will receive medications. You may also be advised to visit another mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor or a bipolar disorder specialist. But keep calm, there are lots of people who lead normal full-blown lives; it just takes time and patience.