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As there is no perfect test for bipolar disorder, the key to identifying the disorder is working with a competent mental health provider who is trained and experienced in diagnosing the disorder. Such providers may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or another mental health provider. Because of the episodic nature of bipolar disorder, it may not be easily identified in a brief meeting.
Distinguishing Between Bipolar Disorder and Other Conditions
Since the treatments can differ, it can be very important for your treatment to determine whether you are suffering from bipolar disorder or another condition. Distinguishing between unipolar depression (or Major Depressive Disorder) and bipolar disorder can be complicated. Depressive episodes, which are part of bipolar disorders, tend to be more common than the elevated or irritable episodes (referred to as manic episodes or, sometimes, hypomanic episodes) associated with bipolar disorder. Also, some individuals do not experience their first manic or hypomanic episode until after experiencing one or several depressive episodes. This can complicate or delay the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. ADHD also shares several characteristics in common with bipolar disorder. Both disorders can involve distractibility, increased levels of activity, and difficulties controlling emotions. Personality Disorders, too, are important to consider as some personality disorders (e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder) can be associated with emotional instability and changes in self-perception.
Complications in the Medical Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Psychiatric medication can have very important benefits for individuals with bipolar disorder and the expertise of the medical provider is essential to finding a medical regimen which maximizes the positive effects of the medication and minimizes potential side effects. With many medications, this can take some time to do. It is important that you talk to your medical provider about the risks of medical treatment and that you have strong communication with your provider as you have questions or concerns. In a few situations, some depression-related medications (as well other psychiatric medications such as stimulant medications for ADHD) can increase the possibility of having a manic or hypomanic episode. Knowing this, the diagnostic question of bipolar disorder is a very important one.
What Does Psychological Testing for Bipolar Disorder Look Like?
If you participate in psychological testing for bipolar disorder, this process can include an in-depth interview, self-report questionnaires, performance-based measures, and talking about your clinical history. In some situations, it can be crucial to interview a family member or close friend, especially if you may not be fully aware of the impact of your symptom patterns. As distinguishing between bipolar disorder and conditions which may resemble bipolar disorder, you can expect that a portion of the time would be devoted to obtaining information pertaining to other conditions. At the end of the process, you are given feedback with regards to what is likely causing your symptoms. Also, feedback sessions involve receiving personalized recommendations about how you can receive help for your symptoms. As therapy can be helpful for bipolar disorder, receiving feedback about how to receive the greatest benefits from your experience in therapy can be especially helpful.
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What is Bipolar Disorder?
How is Bipolar Disorder Different than Depression?
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