Bipolar disorder - Diagnosis 

Diagnosing bipolar disorder 

If your GP thinks you may have bipolar disorder, they will usually refer you to a psychiatrist (a medically qualified mental health specialist).

If your illness puts you at risk of harming yourself, your GP will arrange an appointment immediately.

Specialist assessment

You will be assessed by the psychiatrist at your appointment. They will ask you a few questions to determine if you have bipolar disorder. If you do, they will then decide what treatments are most suitable.

During the assessment, you will be asked about your symptoms and when you first experienced them. The psychiatrist will also ask about how you feel leading up to and during an episode of mania or depression, and if you have thought about harming yourself.

The psychiatrist will also want to know about your medical background and family history, especially whether any of your relatives have had bipolar disorder.

If someone else in your family has the condition, the psychiatrist may want to talk to them. However, they will ask for your agreement before doing so.

Other tests

Depending on your symptoms, you may also need tests to see whether you have a physical problem, such as an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid.

If you have bipolar disorder, you will need to visit your GP regularly for a physical health check.

Advanced directives

If you are diagnosed with the condition, it's important to talk to your psychiatrist so you are fully involved in the decisions about your treatment and care.

However, a person is sometimes not able to make an informed decision about their care or communicate their needs, especially if their symptoms become severe. If this happens, it may be possible to draw up an advanced decision.

An advanced decision is a set of written instructions that state what treatments and help you want (or don't want) in advance, in case you can't communicate your decisions at a later stage. Your GP or psychiatrist can give you further help and advice.

Page last reviewed: 08/04/2014

Next review due: 08/04/2016


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

NotHappyButHappy said on 15 August 2013

Hello i am thinking that i may have something wrong... been on some anti-depression meds been on them for a bout 6 years now and am taking 150 mg and still have high am low days i have been like this for a number of years and don't like feeling like this but every time i tell the GP they don't seem to bother and say you will be ok or its due to the accident when i was four i don't think so i know my body... how do i get the doctor to listen an not throw meds at me

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jess5377 said on 20 January 2013

hi i need a bit of advice
sometimes im happy then low then extremly angry
hate changes
angry over littlest thingsfor no reason
hate being stuck in my house i always have to go out
i hit walls&doors
lost loads of weight
wants sex all the time
periods of high stress
sleep loads
change in my eating pattern
keep forgetting thinks (memory)
what does it seem it is to anyone who has had the same symptoms as me?
where do i go for help or talk to someone?
jess xz

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mum4help said on 23 November 2012

My daughter suffers from deep moods, although pleasant at times , she is more down than up. How can you tell the difference between depression, a moody teenager or bipolar, it is getting worse and im at my wits end what to do she sleeps a lot and eats a lot that can be confused though with other things , she shouts at teachers then says she doesnt remember doing it but feels immediately sorry afterwards? Anyone help at all.

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skankster said on 07 May 2011

Drs put me on various anti depressants for over 15 years before I was reffered to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with bipolar.

I must have tried half a dozen different anti depressants over the years and none of them helped. And I now read that anti depressants may even cause or worsen bipoler!

I told different Drs numerous times it wasn't depression but something else.

None of them would listen until one time I went to see a Dr I was angry and demanded more help. I was sick of them not listening and close to breaking point.

I have been taken off anti depressant and put on mood stabilizers and it has made a whole world of difference to my life.

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die said on 10 July 2010

My son was diagnosed with adhd when he was 7yrs old, he is now 22. The thing is is that adhd and bipolar share similar symptons. Now my son is older he has suicidal tendances. He has attemted suicide 3 times in one yr, thats the ones i no of. These include 200 codine pills then a number of mixed pills and the last attempt was slashing his wrists and he did it the right way so it was'nt attention seeking. I'm hoping that r dr will listen and test him as my sons adhd consultant won't listen to me when i mentioned that my son may be bipolar and as i don't no my family history its hard to no if he is bipolar. It may just be coincedence. Is there anybody out there that can shine a light on my dilema, re: adha or bipolar. Thank you. From die in bristol.

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