How exaclty is Bipolar Disorder diagnosed? Also, are there varying degrees of the disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is not easy to diagnose at all. As I’ve mentioned before, BP is the buy one get five free illness. So it is not uncommon for a doctor to notice the other illnesses before catching on that their may be something bigger causing all the symptoms.
In my case, I hid the mood swing detail from the doctors. I didn’t want to be manic depressive and I wasn’t going to be labeled as such. After awhile I convinced not only the doctors but also myself that I was only suffering from Depression and ADHD.
Fast forward years later and many med changes/med stops/med start ups/big fat lows later… The doctors were always tweaking my meds. The last doctor I saw before my formal diagnosis was a big med tweaker (not to be confused with meth tweaker….ok yeah, I read way too much Ellen Hopikin…but she is just so awesome!)
My experiences with him went kinda like this…
I’d go in, he’d prescribe meds…they’d work for a while, then I’d just not feel like they were working at all. So he would tweak and/or increase the dosage of the meds.
I’m pretty sure this happened at least three times before I just gave up and went off them all together, thus landing me in the hospital and scoring me a real diagnosis.
NOW, I would not recommend taking my journey to get there. If you feel like your medications aren’t cutting the mustard then you definitely want to speak with your PDoc. When I went back to mine after the diagnosis he apologized up and down because he said that it explained everything. He was so disappointed that he hadn’t noticed it himself.
With my son’s diagnosis it was easier. Mainly because I knew what I was looking at. I didn’t wait and let them try him on numerous medications that didn’t work before I searched out a Pdoc with experience in this field (and also with kids)
The key to an accurate diagnosis is to be as open and honest as possible with your PDoc. Make sure he knows all the details/symptoms, not just the ones you feel comfortable talking about. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns or thoughts about bipolar disorder. However, only he/she can make the official diagnosis.
Now when it comes to a diagnosis there are several types of bipolar disorder that your PDoc will look for. Each form involves episodes of both mania and depression to some degree.
Bipolar I disorder involves episodes of severe mood swings, from mania to depression.
Bipolar II disorder is a milder form, involving milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with depression.
With mixed bipolar disorder, there is both mania and depression at the same time. A person can feel grandiose, with racing thoughts and massive amounts of energy, while at the same time feeling moody, angry, irritable and sad. Needless to say, a dangerous mix.
Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by four or more mood episodes that occur within a 12-month period. Some people experience multiple episodes within a single week, or even within a single day. Rapid cycling tends to develop later in the course of illness. Women are more likely than men to have rapid cycling. A rapid-cycling pattern increases risk for severe depression and suicide attempts.
For further information about the specific types of bipolar visit:
Also, if you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask!