Diagnosis

To determine if you have bipolar disorder, your evaluation may include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor may do a physical exam and lab tests to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
  • Psychiatric assessment. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, who 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.
  • Mood charting. You may be asked to keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment.
  • Criteria for bipolar disorder. Your psychiatrist may compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Diagnosis in children

Although diagnosis of children and teenagers with bipolar disorder includes the same criteria that are used for adults, symptoms in children and teens often have different patterns and may not fit neatly into the diagnostic categories.

Also, children who have bipolar disorder are frequently also diagnosed with other mental health conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavior problems, which can make diagnosis more complicated. Referral to a child psychiatrist with experience in bipolar disorder is recommended.