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How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
Proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of physical and psychiatric assessments, as well as observation and evaluation of current symptoms. Given the link between bipolar disorder and family history, an assessment of the patient’s family’s mental health and medical history may be helpful, as well.
Although there is no medical test that can identify or rule out the presence of bipolar disorder, a physician will likely conduct a physical exam to exclude other medical conditions whose symptoms are often similar to those of bipolar disorder. Such conditions include lupus, HIV and thyroid disorders.
A psychiatric assessment typically includes a session with a psychiatrist aimed at identifying symptoms, moods, and patterns of behavior that could be indications of bipolar disorder. The patient will most likely be asked to fill out self-assessment questionnaires, and family members may be asked to contribute questionnaires, too.
After an initial assessment, the patient may be asked to keep a diary to track moods, feelings, sleep patterns and other relevant behaviors. The goal here is to identify patterns that are typical of bipolar disorder.
The results of these assessments will be compared to the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Comparison to these criteria will help a psychiatrist to decide whether the symptoms indicate bipolar disorder, another psychiatric problem (such as borderline personality disorder, impulse control disorders, anxiety disorders, or ADHD) whose symptoms are similar to those of bipolar or disorder, or something else entirely.
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