How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
Proper treatment and diagnosis are able to assist the affected person in leading a productive and healthy life. It is advised that the sufferer speaks to a doctor to a mental health professional such as a psychologist, as the first step to diagnosis and treatment. A doctor is likely to conduct a physical exam in order to determine if the person has bipolar disorder or another condition.
Diagnosing bipolar patients can often be a complicated process for doctors. This is due to the fact that mood swings tend to vary from person to person. The condition is even more difficult to diagnose in teenagers and children.
To be diagnosed with a manic episode, symptoms will last for about a week, with the symptoms being experienced every day for that week, and one may even need to be hospitalised.
For depressive episodes to be diagnosed, symptoms will persist for about two weeks.
**Note to doctors and medical professionals: If someone has bipolar disorder, they tend to seek medical help during a depressive episode, as opposed to a hypomanic or manic one. Therefore, an in-depth medical history of the patient is required so as to not misdiagnose the person with depression. If someone has depression, they do not experience episodes of mania, but they may express some manic symptoms occasionally, this is referred to as major depressive disorder with mixed features.
A typical evaluation for bipolar disorder can include:
A physical examination
This includes lab tests in order to identify if there are any other medical issues that may be the cause of the symptoms.
A psychiatric assessment
This is when a doctor refers a patient to a psychiatrist to talk about their emotions, feelings and behavioural issues. It is likely that the psychiatrist will also request that a self-assessment or psychological questionnaire be filled in. If the patient allows it, loved ones and friends may also provide the psychiatrist with information about them and their moods.
A mood chart
This is a daily record of sleep patterns, moods as well as other factors that the sufferer will need to keep track of in order to assist in achieving a concrete diagnosis.
Criteria required for a bipolar disorder diagnosis
A patient’s symptoms may be compared with criteria for bipolar and other disorders that can be related by a trained psychiatrist. These criteria are known as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Diagnosis in children
The diagnosis of bipolar disorder in teenagers and children often includes the same criteria used in adults, however, the symptoms of younger people often include differentiating patterns and do not always fit into the categories in order to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
Another factor is that children who are bipolar are often diagnosed with the wrong mental condition such as ADHD or with a behavioural issue – this makes the diagnosis process more complicated. It can sometimes be best for one to go to a child psychiatrist who specialises in mental disorders.