Do you have bipolar
Am I Bipolar? How To Tell If You Have Bipolar Disorder
Written by Janie McQueen
In this Article
- Your depression goes way deeper than just “feeling down.”
- You have bouts of over-the-top energy and excitement.
- Bipolar disorder runs in your family.
- You have another illness such as psychosis, anxiety, ADHD, or a drug or alcohol addiction.
- How to Get Help
- How to Treat It
Ever feel like your emotional highs are higher than others’, and your lows lower? If so, ask your doctor about a bipolar disorder screening. This condition, also called manic depression, is a condition of extremes. It can run in families. How your brain works and even its structure might figure in, too. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help you manage your life and feel more stable.
Your depression goes way deeper than just “feeling down.”
Bipolar depression shows up in different ways for different people. You might have trouble sleeping. Or you might sleep too much, and even find it hard to get up. The smallest decisions can seem huge. Overwhelming feelings of failure, guilt, or deep loss can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Other signs to look for:
- You feel like you can’t enjoy anything.
- You find it hard to focus.
- You eat too little or too much.
- You’re weary, and your movements seem slow.
- You’re forgetful.
For a bipolar disorder diagnosis, you must have several depression symptoms that make it hard for you to function every day for at least 2 weeks.
You have bouts of over-the-top energy and excitement.
This is mania. It’s a high that goes way beyond “happy” or “joyful.” Some people have it often, others hardly ever.
Hypomania is a milder form of this feeling. It doesn’t turn into psychosis (lose touch with reality) like mania can, but it’s part of a bipolar diagnosis. You might feel great and get a lot done, but those around you might see changes in your mood and activity levels.
To get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you must have had at least one manic or hypomanic experience.
Signs of manic behavior include:
- Your mood isn’t comfortable. It might feel good at first, especially after depression. But it quickly becomes erratic and out of control.
- Your judgment swerves way off. You take extreme risks. You make bad decisions with no thought for what might happen. For instance, you might spend money recklessly or have risky sex.
- You get bad-tempered and angry.
- You feel strung-out or edgy.
- You find it hard to sleep.
- You feel like your mind is a freeway. You might talk super-fast and hop subjects, or think you can do too many things at once.
Some episodes can mix mania and depression. For example, you might feel hyper-energetic and full of despair at the same time.
Bipolar disorder runs in your family.
The chance that you’ll have bipolar disorder goes up if your parents or brothers or sisters have it. But it doesn’t always happen that way. For example, studies of identical twins show that one twin might have the illness, while the other doesn’t.
You have another illness such as psychosis, anxiety, ADHD, or a drug or alcohol addiction.
Some bipolar disorder symptoms are a lot like other conditions. They can be hard to separate and diagnose.
For example, mania can feature psychotic symptoms. You might think you’re famous or have superpowers. On the flip side, with manic depression, you might think you’ve ruined your life in some dramatic way.
People with bipolar disorder also can have:
- Anxiety disorder or ADHD
- An eating disorder
- PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder
- A physical disorder such as diabetes, obesity, migraines, or thyroid or heart disease
- Substance abuse problems
How to Get Help
About 2.6% of the U.S. population have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It usually comes on at about age 25, but it can happen earlier. There are different types, too. Symptoms can happen -- or not happen -- along a wide spectrum.
A “life chart” is a good way to track your moods and help your doctor diagnose whether you have bipolar disorder. You’ll record details about your moods, sleep patterns, and events in your life. If you’re on a manic swing, you might feel “up” and capable, but a look at the big picture will show you how a “down” will follow. The info also will give your doctor a window into your day-to-day -- even hour-to-hour -- life to decide how best to proceed with treatment if needed.
Special phone apps can help you keep up, too. There are quite a few available to help you track your moods, medications, sleep patterns, and more. One even analyzes how you type on your phone: your rhythm and speed, mistakes, corrections, and other dynamics, but not your content. It then uses this data to gauge your mood and predict bipolar episodes. Just remember that these apps don’t take the place of following a treatment plan under your doctor’s care.
How to Treat It
The main ways to treat and manage bipolar disorder include:
- Medications, like mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and sometimes antidepressants
- Action plans to educate you about the disorder. These can help you manage it on your own by helping you know when an episode is coming on.
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy
- Activities that support your treatment, such as exercise and spiritual practices
FREE Bipolar Disorder Test & Screening
Do I have bipolar? Take this bipolar disorder quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment from a mental health professional.
Medical ReviewerRandy Bressler, PsyD
Who Is This Bipolar Disorder Quiz For?
The questions below relate to life experiences that are common among people who have bipolar disorder. Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few weeks.
How Accurate Is It?
This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor.
Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help out of fear their concerns aren't legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.
What's the Screening Test for Bipolar Disorder Like?
Talking with a doctor or mental health professional is the first step in identifying bipolar disorder. Specific criteria for diagnosis are laid out in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
In a screening for bipolar disorder, you'll be asked several questions about your symptoms and how long they have occurred.
What Other Tests Will You Need to Take?
A doctor may perform a physical evaluation to rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms.
What are Potential Results of Screening for Bipolar?
An estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If left undiagnosed or untreated, the condition usually worsens, causing more problems with mood, energy and clear thinking.
If a diagnosis comes back as negative for bipolar, but you still experience symptoms, a health care professional may screen you for a similar condition such as schizophrenia or depression.
Getting a professional screening can start you on the path toward treatment, which can help improve your quality of life.
What are the Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder?
Typically, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is recommended to treat bipolar disorder.
Several types of therapy may be helpful in treating bipolar issues:
Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT focuses on stabilizing daily rhythms, since following a consistent routine in sleeping, eating, and exercising may help you to manage your moods.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). By identifying unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replacing them with healthy, positive ones, CBT can help identify what triggers your bipolar episodes. You also learn effective strategies to manage stress and to cope with upsetting situations.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Including both individual and group therapy, DBT teaches mindfulness and acceptance skills such as “the ability to experience moment-to-moment thoughts, emotions and their accompanying physical sensations from an observer’s stance, without negative judgment.”
Psychoeducation. Learning about bipolar disorder can help you and your loved ones understand the condition. Knowing what’s going on can help you get the best support, identify issues, make a plan to prevent relapse, and stick with treatment.
Family-focused therapy. Family support and communication can help you stick with your treatment plan and help you and your loved ones recognize and manage warning signs of mood swings.
Many medications can effectively treat bipolar disorder:
Mood stabilizers. Used to control manic or hypomanic episodes, these include lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, others), and lamotrigine (Lamictal)).
Antipsychotics. Adding an antipsychotic may help relieve depressive or manic symptoms that persist despite treatment with other drugs. Taking these alone or with a mood stabilizer may help. Such drugs include: olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris).
Antidepressants. Employed to manage depression, antidepressants are usually prescribed with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic, since an antidepressant alone can sometimes trigger a manic episode.
Antidepressant-antipsychotic. The medication Symbyax combines the antidepressant fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine. It works as a depression treatment and a mood stabilizer.
Anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines may help with anxiety and improve sleep but are usually used on a short-term.
Your privacy is important to us. All results are completely anonymous. This quiz is not a substitute for a proper assessment from a health care professional.
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This test is based on the bipolar screening questionnaire created by Dr. Ivan Goldberg. If you think you may be suffering from Bipolar Disorder or any other mental health condition, PsyCom strongly recommends that you seek help from a doctor in order to receive a proper diagnosis and support.
Bipolar Disorder FAQs
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed through a clinical interview with a licensed mental health professional, explains Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
“Sometimes, the mental health professional will also ask the person to complete some assessment measures to aid in the diagnosis,” Rego says. “They may also ask to speak with a family member or partner, or other significant person in the person’s life, in order to get additional information about the impact the disorder has had on the person and their relationships.”
Who can diagnose bipolar?
Bipolar disorder is most often diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker.
When is bipolar diagnosed?
Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during the late teen years or early adulthood, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms can appear in children.
To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the person must have experienced at least one depressive episode and one manic or hypomanic episode.
How long does it take to diagnose bipolar disorder?
Diagnosing the disorder can be done in one or two assessment sessions, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. However, because bipolar disorder can be confused with other disorders such as depression and borderline personality disorder, getting the correct diagnosis can take some time.
For example, some research suggests that it takes an average of three and a half years to confirm a diagnosis of bipolar disorder after the first major mood episode, with other research suggesting it can take even longer, Rego says.
Can people tell they are bipolar?
People can often tell that something is wrong (often with their mood), but may not always be able to accurately label it as bipolar. For example, it is frequently easy for people to know when they are depressed, but sometimes symptoms of mania go unnoticed, or feel “good,” so they are not as easily seen as an issue, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Can bipolar disorder go away?
Bipolar disorder tends to be seen as an ongoing condition that waxes and wanes throughout one’s life, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
“Fortunately, the symptoms can often be controlled and stabilized in most cases when proper treatment (ideally, the combination of medication and psychotherapy) is in place,” Rego says.
Can bipolar disorder get worse with age?
Bipolar disorder may get worse with age—but this is generally the case over time if it is left untreated, explains Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. If treated with a combination of medication and therapy, people have a much better chance of managing their bipolar disorder, Rego says. “Even then, it’s important for people to monitor their symptoms and seek help right away if they start to feel a change in their mood,” he says.
Can anxiety turn into bipolar?
There is no research evidence that suggests that anxiety can turn into bipolar disorder, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. People with bipolar disorder may experience feelings of anxiety, however, and may also confuse some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder for symptoms of anxiety.
In addition, some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can also be associated with some of the anxiety disorders, Rego says. And some people may have both an anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder.
“So it's not always so easy to sort these things out,” Rego says. “It is much more important to seek professional help if you’re experiencing symptoms that are causing you distress or interference in your ability to function in life.”
Notes: This article was originally published March 29, 2016 and most recently updated November 11, 2021.
Bipolar Disorder | Symptoms, complications, diagnosis and treatment
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Episodes of mood swings may occur infrequently or several times a year.
When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When the mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, alertness, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly. nine0003
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medication and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).
There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania, hypomania, and depression. The symptoms can lead to unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, leading to significant stress and difficulty in life. nine0003
- Bipolar disorder I. You have had at least one manic episode, which may be preceded or accompanied by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania can cause a break with reality (psychosis).
- Bipolar disorder II. You have had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but never had a manic episode. nine0015 Cyclothymic disorder. You have had at least two years - or one year in children and adolescents - many periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).
- Other types. These include, for example, bipolar and related disorders caused by certain drugs or alcohol, or due to health conditions such as Cushing's disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. nine0018
Bipolar II is not a milder form of Bipolar I but is a separate diagnosis. Although bipolar I manic episodes can be severe and dangerous, people with bipolar II can be depressed for longer periods of time, which can cause significant impairment.
Although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, it is usually diagnosed in adolescence or early twenties. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and symptoms can change over time. nine0003
Mania and hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two different types of episodes, but they share the same symptoms. Mania is more pronounced than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at work, school, and social activities, as well as relationship difficulties. Mania can also cause a break with reality (psychosis) and require hospitalization.
Both a manic episode and a hypomanic episode include three or more of these symptoms:
- Abnormally optimistic or nervous
- Increased activity, energy or excitement
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Reduced need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Poor decision-making - for example, in speculation, in sexual encounters or in irrational investments
Major depressive episode
Major depressive episode includes symptoms that are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in daily activities such as work, school, social activities, or relationships. Episode includes five or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful (in children and adolescents, depressed mood may manifest as irritability)
- Marked loss of interest or feeling of displeasure in all (or nearly all) activities
- Significant weight loss with no diet, weight gain, or decreased or increased appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected may be a sign of depression)
- Either insomnia or sleeping too much
- Either anxiety or slow behavior
- Fatigue or loss of energy nine0015 Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Thinking, planning or attempting suicide
Other features of bipolar disorder
Signs and symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorder may include other signs such as anxiety disorder, melancholia, psychosis, or others. The timing of symptoms may include diagnostic markers such as mixed or fast cycling. In addition, bipolar symptoms may occur during pregnancy or with the change of seasons. nine0003
When to see a doctor
Despite extreme moods, people with bipolar disorder often do not realize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones and do not receive the necessary treatment.
And if you are like people with bipolar disorder, you can enjoy feelings of euphoria and be more productive. However, this euphoria is always accompanied by an emotional disaster that can leave you depressed and possibly in financial, legal, or other bad relationships. nine0003
If you have symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health professional. Bipolar disorder does not improve on its own. Getting mental health treatment with a history of bipolar disorder can help control your symptoms.
A loved one has bipolar disorder.What to do?
“Your mood is jumping. Looks like you're bipolar!" Bipolar affective disorder has recently become a very popular topic in the media and in everyday conversations between people. Noticing sudden mood swings, people “find” BAD from friends, partners, acquaintances, and even parents. In reality, bipolar disorder is a severe psychiatric illness that is sometimes difficult to diagnose even for the most qualified specialist, not like a friend or family member. In this disease, a person swings on a pendulum between the strongest mania and severe depression, however, it is extremely difficult to determine that this is bipolar disorder due to the similarity of symptoms with other disorders. nine0003
If your loved one does see a specialist and is diagnosed and treated for bipolar affective disorder, they are more likely to behave like a person without any disorders and their illness will not manifest itself in an acute form. However, this does not mean at all that you need to communicate with such a person as if there is no disease. It is, and it must be taken into account every minute.
How to understand that it is time for a loved one to see a specialist? nine0115
It is possible to assume that a person has bipolar disorder only if he is in the stage of the strongest mania. But for this you need to know what it is, and how the manic state differs from the usual enthusiasm to work, clean or move mountains. In a state of mania, a person feels omnipotent and his activity goes off scale. He does not get tired at all and can not sleep for several days. At the same time, the patient is not adequate in this state, he has a distorted perception of reality, so he can cause serious harm to himself and others, not realizing what he is doing. Usually, only those who have already experienced this can determine that a loved one has started mania. And then, for this you need to get clear instructions from a specialist. But what to do if you meet the strange behavior of a loved one for the first time? How can I convince him that something is wrong with him? nine0003
Therefore, the most convenient moments when you need to take a person to a specialist are hypomania and predepression - periods between acute conditions.
When a person has already crossed the border of psychosis and is in mania, it is impossible to explain to him that he is sick. Theoretically, this can only be done when he is depressed. However, even in this case, a person is not always ready to pick himself up piece by piece from the bed and go to the doctor. Therefore, the most convenient moments when you need to take a person to a specialist are hypomania and predepression - periods between acute conditions. At these moments, a person can really be convinced. It is important to explain to him how hard it is for his loved ones, and what suffering he brings with his behavior. If we are talking about a teenager, then you can try to bribe him - for example, promise to buy him something that he really wants after seeing a doctor. nine0003
What is depression?
How to provide support in mania and depression?
In a state of mania, a patient with bipolar disorder primarily needs restrictions. He needs to be watched because manic psychosis is a dangerous, painful condition in which a person can harm himself and others. The most correct thing to do in a situation where a person is in a manic psychosis is to be hospitalized immediately. nine0003
A person suffering from bipolar disorder must be protected from extremes, and in every possible way to maintain his stable condition.
Depression is different. In addition to proper treatment, a person needs the support of loved ones and their care. He feels deep loneliness, it is very difficult for him to be with himself, and it is important for him that close people are nearby. In fact, you need to communicate with such a person in the same way as with a patient with ordinary depression: do not devalue his feelings and experiences and show all the time that you are with him. However, you should not relax - you need to correctly track the moment when the depressive state comes to an end. After all, depression is always followed by mania. nine0003
What is important to know when dealing with a person who is being treated for bipolar disorder?
If a person is on medication, they may remain stable for a very long time. However, he can come out of this state and plunge into psychosis. This transition can be seen in the same way as the transition from depression to mania and vice versa. You just need to understand the risk factors and watch for changes in behavior. When a patient is diagnosed by a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and depression is detected, specialists begin to work not only with him, but also with his relatives. Relatives receive general knowledge about the disease and clear instructions that help them communicate properly with the patient and respond to any changes in his condition. nine0003
Why do we need a psychotherapist?
The therapist tells them about the risk factors to watch out for.