When doctors suspect someone has bipolar disorder, they typically do a number of tests and exams. These can help rule out other problems, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. These may include:
- Physical exam. A physical exam and lab tests may be done to help identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
- Psychological evaluation. Your doctor or mental health provider will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms and possible episodes of mania or depression.
- Mood charting. To identify exactly what's going on, your doctor may have you keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment.
- Signs and symptoms. Your doctor or mental health professional typically will compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to determine a diagnosis.
Diagnosis in children
Although bipolar disorder can occur in young children, typically it's diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s. It's often hard to tell whether a child's emotional ups and downs are normal for his or her age, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder.
Bipolar symptoms in children and teens often have different patterns than they do in adults and may not fit neatly into the categories used for diagnosis. And children who have bipolar disorder are frequently also diagnosed with other mental health conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavior problems.
Your child's doctor can help you learn the symptoms of bipolar disorder and how they differ from behavior related to your child's developmental age, the situation and appropriate cultural behavior.
July 06, 2016
- Bipolar and related disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
- Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing. http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
- Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
- Culpepper L. The diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder: Decision-making in primary care. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195640/. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
- Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Symbyax (prescribing information). Indianapolis, Ind.: Eli Lilly and Company; 2009. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/021520s041lbl.pdf. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Thronson LR, et al. Psychopharmacology. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014;98:927.
- Ravindran AV, et al. Complementary and alternative therapies as add-ons to pharmacotherapy for mood and anxiety disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013;150:707.
- Sarris J, et al. Bipolar disorder and complementary medicine: Current evidence, safety issues, and clinical considerations. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17:881.
- 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.
- Bipolar disorder in children and teens. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13107. Access Dec. 11, 2014.
- Bipolar disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Bipolar1/Home_-_What_is_Bipolar_Disorder_.htm. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014.
- Cook, AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 24, 2014.
- Birmaher B. Bipolar disorder in children and adolescents: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and course. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 11, 2014.
- Veldic M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 21, 2014.
- Picardi A, et al. Psychotherapy of mood disorders. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. 2014;10:140.
- Frye MA, et al. Current landscape, unmet needs and future directions for treatment of bipolar depression. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2014;169S1:S17.
- Frye MA. Clinical practice. Bipolar disorder — A focus on depression. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:51.