When an individual believes they have Bipolar Disorder, they are advised to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Doctors will ask a series of questions regarding the individual’s symptoms, behaviour and feelings. In some cases, medical tests can be conducted to rule out other causes for symptoms.

If the doctor believes an individual may have Bipolar Disorder, the patient will normally be referred to a mental health specialist for a diagnosis.

A mental health professional will assist in diagnosis

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder (once known as Manic Depression) is a serious mental health condition characterised by intense mood swings. Someone with Bipolar Disorder will experience both highs – known as mania, and lows – known as depression. These periods will often last for weeks, and can cause significant distress. Sometimes, Bipolar Disorder can start as Depression, before exacerbating. The depressive periods of Bipolar feature long-term periods of low moods. During the manic phase, an individual will feel happy, energetic and ambitious – and often act recklessly, or exhibit signs of psychosis. There are different sub-types of Bipolar Disorder, based around the differing characteristics of each. Bipolar Disorder is normally a chronic condition. However, with treatment, the symptoms can be controlled far more, which should result in an improvement in quality of life.


Due to the severity of Bipolar Disorder, it cannot be diagnosed by a regular GP. Therefore, an assessment with a mental health professional is required.

When meeting a mental health specialist, a full assessment of the individual’s condition will be conducted. This will include more detailed questions regarding the symptoms – as well as any feelings in the build up to an episode.

A family history of mental illness may also be requested. A mood diary can be used to aid diagnosis. Sometimes, something called the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) can be used to assist in diagnosis.

Diagnostic Criteria

Each type of Bipolar Disorder has a differing diagnostic criteria – although they relate to the types and severity of symptoms/states.

These symptoms relate to either mania, hypomania, or depression. This involves being highly excitable, over-excitable, or sad – respectively.

  • Bipolar I Disorder: Requires at least one manic episode to have been experienced – with depressive episodes often accompanying them.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Involves at least one hypomanic episode to have been experienced, along with depressive phases. Bipolar II Disorder is notoriously difficult to diagnose.
  • Cyclothymia: Can be diagnosed if an individual experiences milder hypomania and depressive episodes.
  • Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: Involves numerous mood swings in a short space of time – featuring both manic/hypomanic and depressive phases.
  • Mixed Bipolar Disorder: Involves a simultaneous bout of depression and mania/hypomania.

A diagnosis is seldom made over one appointment. A specialist may want to observe the behaviour of an individual over a period of time, due to risks of misdiagnosis.

Bipolar Disorder can easily be confused with other conditions like Depression, Schizophrenia and various Personality Disorders. Sometimes, one of these conditions will be diagnosed instead.

It is important for the correct diagnosis to be made, so that the correct course of treatment can be provided to the patient.


By getting a full picture of how Bipolar Disorder affects an individual, the specialist can tailor a treatment plan to fit the specific symptoms.

The sooner an individual seeks help for Bipolar Disorder, the better. Treatment can certainly help, and provide a significantly better quality of life – something which is key.

See Also

  1. Bipolar Disorder: Everything You Need To Know
  2. What Are The Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?
  3. What Are The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
  4. What Are The Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
  5. How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
  6. How Can Bipolar Disorder be Treated?
  7. What is the Prognosis for Bipolar Disorder?
  8. 10 Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder

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If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.