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Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. It was formerly referred to as manic-depressive disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 10 million Americans live with this condition. The word “bipolar” refers to the extreme highs and lows in mood. These swings can affect your ability to perform everyday tasks.
A person living with bipolar disorder typically has periods of mania. These can include extreme highs in mood, being extremely restless or irritable, and grand, unrealistic thoughts (psychosis). These highs can be followed by periods of depression, which can involve:
The severity and duration of the highs and lows can vary. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to receive appropriate treatment to control the disorder. Talk to your doctor to determine what type of testing is best for you.
According to the NAMI, bipolar disorder can be diagnosed at any age, but more than half are first diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. Other conditions have to be ruled out first since there are no definitive diagnostic tests for bipolar disorder. Tests that are usually done first include the following.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used by doctors to diagnose bipolar disorder according to specific guidelines. Bipolar disorder is subdivided into several specific subtypes.
There are several types of bipolar disorder, and the DSM lists numerous criteria for each one.
Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be challenging. It usually includes a mix of input, including:
Written by: Jaime Herndon and Erica Cirino
Published on: Aug 29, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Oct 17, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP
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