Bipolar Disorder is not Easy to Diagnose. Here’s Why.

We Are Here to Provide Accurate Diagnoses

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves dramatic shifts in mood, from depressive lows to manic highs. It can be difficult to manage and, unfortunately, is also hard to diagnose. In addition to mood shifts, one may experience changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, emotions, and behaviors.

What Are the Symptoms of a Manic Episode?

Manic episodes are one side of bipolar disorder. Symptoms include extreme amounts of energy, higher activity levels, euphoric mood, insomnia, speedy and talkative speech patterns, irritability, jitters or agitation, racing mind, risky behaviors, and sudden initiation of many tasks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Depressive Episode?

The other side of bipolar disorder is depressive episodes. Symptoms of depressive episodes are feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in typical activities, lower activity level, slow movements, forgetfulness, low energy, changes in eating habits, interrupted sleep patterns, excessive fatigue, and suicidal thoughts.

Subtypes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder consists of a few subtypes. Bipolar I disorder is distinguished by at least one manic episode, followed or preceded by a depressive episode. Bipolar II disorder is defined by at least one depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. Hypomania is a less severe type of mania. It can last for at least four consecutive days, while mania must last for at least a week. Hypomania does not dramatically affect social, work, or school functioning, while mania does. Mania may even reach a point that requires hospitalization, while hypomania will not.

Cyclothymic disorder is when someone experiences less extreme depressive episodes and persistent hypomania for at least two years. Some people may have other specified bipolar and related disorders, in which they show some bipolar disorder-like symptoms but do not fit the complete requirement for diagnosis for the other three subtypes.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Bipolar I and bipolar II disorder are particularly difficult to diagnose. Only 20% of patients seeking treatment are accurately diagnosed within the first year. Beyond that, the delay between the onset of bipolar disorder and a proper diagnosis is 5-10 years. This diagnosis delay is primarily due to the difficulty in telling the difference between bipolar I and II from unipolar depression. Patients may seek help while in a depressive state and forget previous manic episodes. There’s also a chance they haven’t yet experienced mania. Substance disorders can play a part in misdiagnoses as well.

We Need Accurate Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses

Misdiagnosis can lead to the patient receiving the wrong prescription or treatment. At SOL Mental Health, we realize the importance of an accurate diagnosis. We offer psychological testing to our clients to help them better understand and treat their symptoms. Our clinical psychologists put a significant amount of time and effort into getting to know patients to diagnose them properly.

Life can be hard, especially when it comes to mental health. Our goal at SOL Mental Health is to make things easier for you. If you are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, or are struggling with your mental health in any capacity, reach out to us today. We are here to help you live your best life!

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