You may start by seeing your primary care doctor or you may choose to see a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist).
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Any symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
- All medications, vitamins or other supplements that you're taking, and their dose
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible. That person may provide more information or remember something that you missed or forgot.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I have bipolar disorder?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What treatments are available? Which do you recommend for me?
- What side effects are possible with that treatment?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Should I see a psychiatrist or other mental health provider?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
Feb. 10, 2015
- When did you or your loved ones first begin noticing your symptoms of depression, mania or hypomania?
- How frequently do your moods change?
- Do you ever have suicidal thoughts when you're feeling down?
- Do your symptoms interfere with your daily life or relationships?
- Do you have any blood relatives with bipolar disorder or depression?
- What other mental or physical health conditions do you have?
- Do you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use street drugs?
- How much do you sleep at night? Does it change over time?
- Do you go through periods when you take risks that you wouldn't normally take, such as unsafe sex or unwise, spontaneous financial decisions?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
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- Bipolar disorder in adults. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
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- Frye MA. Clinical practice. Bipolar disorder — A focus on depression. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:51.
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