Making a diagnosis
To make a diagnosis your doctor will ask you about:
- How many symptoms you experience
- How long your manic or depressive episodes last
- How many episodes you have had and how frequently they occur
- The impact your symptoms have on your life
- Your family history
They may also:
- Ask you to keep a diary of your moods to help them assess you
- Check for any physical health problems, such as thyroid problems, which can cause mania-like symptoms
You can only be diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist – not by your family doctor. However, if you are experiencing bipolar symptoms, discussing it with your family doctor can be a good first step. They can refer you to a psychiatrist, who will be able to assess you.
“Once properly diagnosed, I knew the cause. I understood that I was someone with an illness. I was not a failure, not a bad person.”
How long does diagnosis take?
Because bipolar disorder involves changes in your moods over time, your doctor may want to observe you for a while before making a diagnosis. Bipolar disorder also has some symptoms in common with other mental health diagnoses (such as depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD), schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia), so your doctor may want to take care that they diagnose you correctly. Because of this it might take a long time to get a correct diagnosis – sometimes it can take years.
What can I do if I disagree with my diagnosis?
If you feel the diagnosis you have been given does not fit the way you feel, it is important to discuss it with your doctor.
“I was diagnosed with BPD first because of the overlap in symptoms between bipolar II and BPD.”