The National Institute of Mental Health states that bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Bipolar disorder symptoms can cause damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.
Fortunately, bipolar disorder can be tested and treated, allowing people who once suffered from this condition to lead happy, healthy lives.
What types of bipolar disorder exist?
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder, which doctors diagnose using guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The criteria help doctors figure out the best form of treatment for the person suffering with bipolar disorder.
- Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic or mixed episodes that last seven days at a minimum. A person is also considered to have bipolar I disorder if he or she had to be hospitalized due to manic or depressive symptoms.
- Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and “hypomanic” episodes. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania in which a person may feel very good and productive but may not feel anything wrong. However, family and friends are able to recognize a change in behavior.
- Bipolar Disorders Not Otherwise Specified is defined when symptoms are apparent but don’t meet diagnostic criteria for bipolar I or II disorders. Symptoms may not feel apparent or appear within their normal range.
- Cyclothymic Disorder, or cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder in which a person has episodes of hypomania and mild depression for at least two years. These symptoms also do not meet the requirements for bipolar I or II disorders.
What are signs or symptoms that indicate a person should be tested for bipolar disorder?
People with bipolar disorder are prone to having unusually intense emotional states that are sometimes called “mood episodes.” A person with bipolar disorder exhibits manic states as well as depressive states. Manic states are when a person is overly joyful or happy, and depressive episodes are when they feel extremely sad or hopeless. While people may often feel these symptoms separately, some might have mood episodes that include both manic and depressive symptoms.
Some manic state symptoms include:
- Long periods of being excessively happy or feeling outgoing
- Extreme irritability
- Talking very fast or jumping from one idea to another
- Being easily distracted
- Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
- Being overly restless
- Not feeling tired
- Having unrealistic beliefs in abilities
- Behaving impulsively
Some depressive state symptoms include:
- Overly long period of sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities a person once enjoyed
- Feeling tired or in slow motion
- Issues concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Being restless or irritable
- Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What does bipolar disorder testing entail?
Testing for bipolar disorder can be tricky, as it uses the testimony of you, your friends, and your family to diagnose. However, the first thing you’ll undergo is a physical exam. Blood tests rule out any other medical condition, such as brain tumors, seizure disorders, or infectious diseases, which might be causing your symptoms. If these tests come back normal, your doctor will move on to the psychological evaluation.
The psychological evaluation is when your doctor or mental health provider speaks to you about your thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns. He or she might ask you to fill out a questionnaire. With your permission, the medical professional will also speak to your family and friends to provide information. This is done because you might not notice your symptoms.
Mood charting is often used to identify exactly what causes emotions. It’s a journal or daily record of how you feel, your patterns, and other factors that could help diagnose and find the correct treatment. Your doctor will list exactly what you should record.
What kind of medical professional administers a test for bipolar disorder?
A psychiatrist, usually partnered with a psychologist, will handle testing and treatment for bipolar disorder. A psychologist will provide therapy while the psychiatrist will work as a medical doctor. Together, they provide coping methods and perhaps medication to combat symptoms of bipolar disorder.