Bipolar disorder cannot be identified physiologically. That means it cannot be found by things like blood tests or brain scans. It is diagnosed based on symptoms and course of illness. When available, family history plays a role in diagnosis. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5).
Bipolar disorder is often diagnosed based on the following:
Mania could be diagnosed based on an abnormally elevated mood. It must last at least one week. It also must occur with 3 or more of the other symptoms of mania. If your mood is irritable, 4 additional symptoms must be present.
Depression is diagnosed based on depressed mood or loss of interest in pleasure. It must occur every day, or nearly every day. This must last 2 weeks, and be accompanied by 5 or more of the symptoms.
A diagnostic evaluation may include a mental status exam. This helps determine if your speech, thought patterns, or memory have been affected. Sometimes this happens in the case of bipolar disorder.
You may also be evaluated for other psychiatric conditions. These include anxiety disorders, or alcohol or drug abuse . You will also be evaluated for other potential medical and neurological causes for your symptoms.
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Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml. Accessed September 5, 2013.
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DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed September 5, 2013.
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Last reviewed September 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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