Preparing for your appointment

You may start by seeing your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. You may want to take a family member or friend along to your appointment, if possible, for support and to help remember information.

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, herbs or other supplements you're taking, and the dosages
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Some questions to ask your doctor may 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 professional?
  • 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 other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you or your loved ones first begin noticing your symptoms?
  • 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 recreational 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?