If you feel disconnected from reality and suffer from manic episodes and major depressive episodes, you might have bipolar disorder. Finally being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and receiving correct medication can be life-changing.
Bipolar disorder is a complex mood disorder affecting 2.8% of Americans aged 18 and over. People diagnosed with the disorder report extremes in moods ranging from severe depression to hypomania. During a manic episode, affected individuals may feel on top of the world, spend excessively, engage in risk-taking behavior and lose touch with reality. Depressive episodes can lead to suicidal thoughts and can last anywhere from a few days to months.
There are different types of bipolar, but the most common are type 1 and type 2. To get an accurate diagnosis, you’ll need a psychiatrist referral from your health care practitioner. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of bipolar disorder and how to get an appropriate diagnosis.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
A host of symptoms are associated with bipolar, many of which overlap with other mental health disorders. Many people don’t get the right treatment because of a bipolar disorder misdiagnosis. For a proper diagnosis, write down all your symptoms over time. If they match up with the red flag symptoms from the list below, you might need to test for bipolar disorder.
When in a depressive state, you may experience the following:
- Sleeping too much
- Overwhelming anxiety and sadness
- Fatigue and lack of motivation
- Frequently sick or in pain
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Lack of concentration
- Irritability and irrational thoughts
- Ruminating thought patterns
- Oversensitive to situations and misinterpreting scenarios
- Believing made-up thoughts are real
When in a manic state, you may experience the following:
- Lack of focus and racing thoughts
- Feelings of superiority and a “conquer the world” attitude
- Hyper energy and easily distracted
- No need for sleep
- Complete euphoria or extreme aggression
- Losing touch with reality by engaging in impulsive and risk-taking behavior
- Selfishness and lack of awareness of the world around you
- Spending sprees
- Substance abuse
- Delusions of grandeur
If any of the above behaviors or symptoms align with your experiences, you should seek help from a mental health professional.
Getting a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
Your first step is to form a relationship with the right mental health professional who understands your background. A therapist will work with you to establish a plan that includes the right combination of counseling, therapies and medication.
If you’re wondering how to test for bipolar disorder, the first step is to be evaluated by a professional. Your health care provider can recommend someone.
You’ll be expected to discuss your symptoms, when they first appeared and how long they typically last. You may also have to fill out details about how your symptoms affect your work life, relationships and social life. It’s advisable to bring your partner or family with you so they can give a broader picture. In addition, a full physical and blood test will need to be performed to rule out physical ailments, as various diseases and hormone-related problems can mimic the symptoms of bipolar.
Because there’s a link between substance abuse and bipolar disorder, you’ll be asked to expand on your substance use and medication history. Depression and mental health disorders can be genetic, so expect your physician to delve into your family history. Before your assessments, try to put together a family tree of those who’ve experienced mental health issues.
After receiving a psychological evaluation, you should talk to at least several clinicians who are experts in mental health. It’s important to establish a connection before committing. It will be a lifelong relationship, so doing the groundwork is important.
The Types of Bipolar Disorder
- Bipolar 1: This is generally more severe than type 2. Those with bipolar 1 report numerous episodes of mania that last for at least a week. Bipolar 1 also experiences depressive episodes, but they aren’t as pronounced. The defining characteristic of type 1 is extreme mania.
- Bipolar 2: Type 2 experiences a shift between mania and depression but never full-blown manic breaks that require rehabilitation or hospitalization. The symptoms associated with type 2 are more related to depression than mania. Episodes of either depression or mania don’t tend to last long.
- Cyclothymia bipolar: People with this diagnosis have chronic mood states that can last for years. Their moods move between mild depression and mania.
- Unspecified bipolar: If a person’s diagnosis matches the signs and symptoms of bipolar but doesn’t fit into any of the above categories, they’re usually classed as unspecified.
Bipolar diagnosis usually fits into one of the above categories but can also be labeled with a defining behavior. For example, someone who experiences repetitive thought patterns would be bipolar with rapid cycling. Similarly, someone with persistent delusions would have bipolar with paranoid features.
Consult the Experts
Bipolar disorder can easily be misdiagnosed, which is why it’s important to get the right practitioner. Consult someone who has years of experience dealing with bipolar specifically. And make sure you feel a connection with your therapist. A range of therapies are available to treat bipolar, from cognitive behavioral therapy to medication and weekly therapy to deal with your triggers.
There’s no cure for bipolar, but it can be managed. If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist or diagnosis, get in touch with FHE. Our compassionate team is available 24/7 to help you get a proper diagnosis so you can live a healthy and balanced life.