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Bipolar Disorder (cont.)

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What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose bipolar disorder?

As is true with virtually any mental health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively assesses that someone has bipolar disorder. Therefore, health care clinicians, like psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, diagnose this disease by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental health information. The health care professional will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has mental health symptoms like euphoria, depression, agitated depression, and rarely paranoia or other symptoms of psychosis that are associated with a medical condition.

In asking questions about mental-health symptoms, mental health professionals are often exploring if the individual suffers from depression and/or manic symptoms but also anxiety, substance abuse, hallucinations or delusions, as well as some personality and behavioral disorders. Health-care professionals may provide the people they evaluate with a quiz or self-test as a screening tool for bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Since some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can also occur in other mental illnesses, the mental-health screening is to determine if the individual suffers from bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder like panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The examiner also explores whether the person with bipolar disorder suffers from other mental illnesses like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and other psychotic disorders, a substance-abuse disorder like narcotic (for example, hydrocodone) withdrawal or stimulant (for example, cocaine) intoxication; or a personality or behavior disorder like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Any disorder that is associated with sudden changes in behavior, mood, or thinking, like a psychotic disorder, borderline personality disorder, or multiple personality disorder (MPD), may be particularly challenging to distinguish from bipolar disorder. In order to assess the person's current emotional state, health-care professionals perform a mental-status examination, as well.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2017


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