Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Bipolar disorder can be challenging to diagnose. An accurate personal history is critical. An incorrect diagnosis in patients with bipolar disorder may result in inappropriate treatment.

a woman has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder 2

Diagnosing bipolar disorder is complex

Bipolar disorder may be difficult to diagnose because its depressive symptoms are similar to the symptoms of major depressive disorder. The key difference is that in order to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder you must have experienced at least one period of mania or hypomania (a less severe form of mania). In order to receive an accurate diagnosis, it’s important to work closely with your doctor and to provide as accurate a personal history as possible. Without a complete and accurate history, your manic symptoms could be missed.

Why an accurate diagnosis is so important

Receiving an accurate diagnosis is very important, because without the correct diagnosis, you could potentially receive a treatment that is not appropriate for your condition. For example, treatment with antidepressants alone, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) could trigger a manic episode. Especially if you have unresolved symptoms of depression, work closely with your doctor so that you receive the treatment advice that’s best for you.

Stick with it

Over one-third of people with bipolar disorder who were originally misdiagnosed waited 10 years or more before receiving an accurate diagnosis. In a national survey, approximately 7 out of 10 people with bipolar disorder had been misdiagnosed — most frequently with major depressive disorder. Delays in accurate diagnosis can have consequences. If you suspect you’ve been misdiagnosed, keep working closely with your doctor.

To help ensure an accurate diagnosis as early as possible

  • Be open and honest with your doctor
  • Report any unresolved symptoms you may experience during treatment
  • Tell your health care professional if you have a family history of bipolar disorder

Remember, while working toward a correct diagnosis can be frustrating, receiving it can be a relief.