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How Do Psychiatrists Diagnose Bipolar Disorder And Its Symptoms?

Bipolar disorder is an ailment that makes a person feel intense mood swings. These may fluctuate between depression and mania and remain for hours, days, or weeks. As per an estimation, over 10 million Americans have some sort of bipolar disorder.

The condition generally turns up during the earliest stages of adulthood. If it is not treated timely, things can become worse. When anyone with bipolar disorder receives treatment, its symptoms can be alleviated. Moreover, the person can get an opportunity to lead a better, healthier life once again.

What Are Different Types Of Bipolar Disorders?

Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder struggle in their day-to-day life. There are different types of bipolar disorders, and each has unique characteristics. The types of bipolar disorders include:

Bipolar I

This is the most common type of bipolar disorder. It brings about one or more manic episodes, and there may or may not be any depressive episodes. If the mania is severe, the patient may need to be hospitalized, which may last for a week or more.

Bipolar II

The switching of not-so-severe hypomanic and depressive episodes can identify this type of bipolar disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder

The person may experience episodes of recurrent mood swings between hypomanic and depressive. These mood shifts last for over two years. Furthermore, the episodes of depression and mania fail to match the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder episodes. Also, there can be possibilities of a normal mood, but these may remain for not more than eight weeks.

Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes, the symptoms don’t fall into the other three categories but indicate episodes of unexpected manic mood. If such happens, then it is an unspecified bipolar disorder.

Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder features unexpected mood swings, and you may feel unable to live a normal life. Along with mood swings, the disorder can affect our eating habits, sleep cycle, and behaviors. Also, the periodic mood swings can vary from depressive to manic and may show signs like:

Signs Of A Manic Episode:

  • Rapid and talkable speech
  • High-risk actions
  • Insomnia
  • Raised activity level
  • Racing thoughts
  • Euphoric mood
  • Irritability 

Signs Of A Depressive Episode:

  • Struggling to focus
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sudden shifts in eating habits
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sluggish motions
  • Loss of interest in certain things
  • Decreased activity level
  • Disrupted sleep routines

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

The healthcare provider may use the following tools to diagnose bipolar disorder:

  • A physical test
  • A detailed medical history of the patient
  • Medical tests (blood tests, for example)
  • A mental health evaluation

To be considered having bipolar disorder, the patient should’ve experienced at least one mania or hypomania episode. Your healthcare provider will look at the patterns of signs and their intensity to identify what type of bipolar disorder it is.

Also Read: Importance Of Behavioral Health Services & Where To Find Them In Naperville

Why Is It Important To Have A Proper Diagnosis Of Bipolar Disorder?

There can be severe consequences if you have a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed bipolar disorder. You may receive the wrong therapy or medicine for your condition.

Due to this, the doctors have to carry out a comprehensive psychological evaluation. Throughout this evaluation, the whole mental health history of the patient will be addressed.

Along with that, it may show that bipolar symptoms occurred before the start of a substance use disorder. All these signs can be examined within the evaluation. It can even help the patient remember a manic episode that they may have experienced in the past and have forgotten.

Psychiatric Diagnosis Of A Bipolar Disorder

If your doctor suspects you have bipolar disorder, they might refer you to a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a specialist who deals with mental health issues. Your doctor will book an appointment with the specialist if the mental illness is seriously affecting you. Here is a brief about the diagnosis of bipolar disorder by a psychiatrist:

Specialist Assessment

The psychiatrist will assess your condition as you visit their office. A few questions will be asked to see whether you are undergoing bipolar disorder. If it is found that you have bipolar disorder, the psychiatrist will determine the ideal treatment for you.

You will also be asked questions regarding your signs and symptoms. For example, “When was the first time you experienced them?” Besides that, the psychiatrist will ask about your medical and family history. This is mainly to know if anyone in your family has undergone any type of bipolar disorder.

Additional Tests

Based on your signs, you will also have to undergo tests to see whether you suffer from physical issues. These can be an overactive thyroid. If you suffer from any bipolar disorder, you will have to go for a routine health checkup with your doctor.

Advanced Statement

If it is found that you have bipolar disorder, speak to your psychiatrist and make a collective decision on the right therapy and care.

Sometimes, a person isn’t able to decide on the care or talk about their necessities. This is especially true when their signs turn worse. So, in that case, they should draw up an advance statement.

An advance statement refers to the instructions stating what treatments and assistance the person needs or doesn’t need. This is when you hesitate to share your decisions further. You can get help later on from your doctor and psychiatrist.

What Questions Will Your Psychiatrist Ask During The Diagnosis?

A psychiatrist will do a more detailed evaluation of your mental well-being than your general practitioner. During the diagnosis, your psychiatrist may also ask the following questions:

  • When did you notice the symptoms for the first time?
  • How do you feel in a depressive or manic episode?
  • Have you ever felt thoughts of suicide or self-harm?
  • Do you feel that you have control over your mania, and what’s the duration of an episode?
  • Do you have a history of drug and alcohol abuse?

You’ll have to experience at least one depressive and one manic or hypomanic episode for a diagnosis. A diagnosis will consider other aspects of your health history and the drugs or medicines you took previously.

How Much Time Does A Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder Take?

There may be chances of misdiagnosis of the condition. So, it may sometimes take years to receive the correct bipolar disorder diagnosis.

However, the diagnosis process may take only some weeks. You may need to visit a medical professional ready to assess you for the disorder. 


Are you feeling any signs of bipolar disorder? You may feel a bit confused about whether to seek a diagnosis or not. Living with bipolar disorder can make life difficult. So, do not neglect to get an evaluation of your mental health.

Reach out to iCare Psychiatry Services to have a diagnosis from an expert psychiatrist. At iCare Psychiatry, we handle everything from prescribing medications to interpreting lab tests. Make an appointment with our psychiatrists to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

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