Bipolar Disorder - Diagnosis

Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist, a doctor who specializes in mental conditions. One set of tools that is often used is a series of tests of a person's mental condition. Some examples of these tests include the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory III (MCMI-III), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory II (MMPI-2), the Internal State Scale (ISS), and the Self-Report Manic Inventory (SRMI). These tests may be either verbal or written and are conducted in a hospital or a doctor's office.

Psychiatrists rely on a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), in diagnosing bipolar disorder. DSM-IV is the standard reference manual for all kinds of mental disorders. It describes the conditions for which a psychiatrist should look in diagnosing a condition. The guidelines set down in DSM-IV are very clear and specific for each condition.

For example, DSM-IV defines mania as a period of abnormally intense excitement that lasts for a period of at least one week. The patient must also demonstrate at least three specific symptoms from the following list:

  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Becoming distracted easily
  • Increase in desire to get specific jobs done
  • Unusual interest in activities that can lead to painful results

The symptoms of bipolar disorder are often different in children and adolescents. For example, their symptoms may be considerably more severe than in adults. A psychiatrist may diagnose schizophrenia (pronounced skit-suh-FREE-nee-uh, see schizophrenia entry), a severe and disabling mental disorder, rather than bipolar disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder in those under the age of twenty lead to many incorrect diagnoses, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD; see attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder entry) or conduct disorder.

Other conditions can also produce symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder. Drug abuse is one such condition. A drug abuser cannot be examined for possible bipolar disorder until he or she has stopped using drugs. Disorders of the thyroid gland and the use of prescribed and over-the-counter medication can also produce bipolar-like symptoms.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

The Content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of Content found on the Website.