Diagnosing bipolar disorder is a complex process, as no single test can determine if a person has the condition. Doctors use a combination of physical exams, laboratory tests, and psychiatric assessments to make an accurate diagnosis. Testing for bipolar disorder is not as straightforward as having a multiple-choice test or sending blood to a lab. Although bipolar disorder does present with different symptoms, there is no single test to confirm the diagnosis.
Often, doctors use a combination of methods to make a diagnosis. Bipolar disorders of types I and II are especially difficult to accurately diagnose in clinical practice, particularly in their early stages. Only 20% of patients with bipolar disorder who are experiencing a depressive episode are diagnosed with the disorder within the first year of seeking treatment,5 and the average delay between disease onset and diagnosis is 5 to 10 years.10 One of the main reasons for the difficulty of diagnosis is the challenge of differentiating type I or II bipolar disorder from unipolar depression, a disease characterized by recurrent depressive episodes, especially in patients who present during a depressive episode and in those without a clear history of mania or hypomania 4,5, unipolar depression is reportedly the most common misdiagnosis in patients with bipolar disorder5, especially in bipolar disorder type II, because patients with bipolar disorder, by definition, never experience an episode of mania (Figure. When diagnosing bipolar disorder, psychiatrists will evaluate you in their office. They'll ask you some questions to find out if you have the condition.
If they do diagnose you with bipolar disorder, they will decide which treatments are the most appropriate. A diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder means that you will have regular episodes of hypomania and depression for at least two years. You won't be diagnosed with bipolar disorder if your symptoms are milder. Cyclothymia can turn into bipolar disorder. You can check what treatment and care is recommended for bipolar disorders on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website.
Carey was diagnosed with bipolar II, a less serious disorder characterized by dramatic mood swings from highs called hypomania to lows, or depression. This section is for people with bipolar disorder or cyclothymia and their caregivers, family and friends. Sometimes people with these symptoms are misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, but they actually have bipolar disorder. It can be difficult to distinguish between depressive episodes that occur due to regular or unipolar depression and those that occur due to bipolar disorder. Step-BD followed more than 4,000 people diagnosed with bipolar disorder over time with different treatments. Promising findings from studies with different neuroimaging modalities indicate that neuroimaging measures could help identify biomarkers to differentiate bipolar disorder from unipolar depression. Because bipolar disorder sometimes has a genetic component, a family history can be helpful in making a diagnosis.
In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) adopted the name bipolar disorder to replace the term manic-depressive. In addition, people who have other diagnoses of mental illness may experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Most people living with bipolar disorder experience manic episodes (high) and depressive episodes (low). Other health professionals may be able to reverse or correct a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. Severe bipolar episodes of mania or depression can include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. NYU Langone is home to nationally renowned psychiatrists who specialize in identifying bipolar disorder.