Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis How Do I Know If I Have Bipolar Disorder? By Wendy Wisner Wendy Wisner Wendy Wisner is a health and parenting writer, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and mom to two awesome sons. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 03, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Rafa Elias / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Bipolar Disorder? Signs and Symptoms How to Find Out If You Have Bipolar Disorder Treatment If you have symptoms that resemble bipolar disorder, such as intense mood swings, you might be wondering if you have the disorder. Perhaps others have suggested that you have some signs of bipolar disorder. Either way, you want to know whether you could possibly have bipolar disorder, and if so, what might happen next. Let’s take a look at what bipolar disorder looks like for different people, how to find out if you have it, and how bipolar disorder is usually treated. 5 Movies That Portray What It's Like to Have Bipolar Disorder What Is Bipolar Disorder? Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder usually alternate between states of mania (or hypomania) and depression. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that can impact relationships, work, finances, and emotional well-being. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to attempt suicide than others. Thankfully, there are effective treatments available for bipolar disorder, but bipolar disorder is a chronic condition and requires lifelong treatment. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. How Common Is Bipolar Disorder? Most people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in their late teens or early adult years but others don’t get a proper diagnosis till much later. Bipolar disorder affects about 2.8% of Americans; of those, 83% have a case of bipolar disorder that would be characterized as “severe.” Who Is Most Likely to Have Bipolar Disorder? Bipolar can affect anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. Most research indicates that bipolar disorder affects males and females equally. However, research analysis from 2021 indicates that women may be somewhat more likely to have bipolar disorder than men. While anyone can have bipolar disorder no matter their background, there are certain individuals who are more likely to have it than others. For example: Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, so if you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be more likely to be diagnosed yourself Experts believe certain genes and chromosomal differences may be responsible for the development of bipolar disorder Stress on its own doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, but stressful events and traumatic events may trigger a manic or depressive episode Environmental triggers, such as drugs/alcohol, or lack of sleep may be also be a trigger Brain differences and chemical imbalances may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder 9 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms Bipolar disorder presents differently from one person to another. Additionally, the disorder will have different symptoms depending on whether you are experiencing a depressive state or a manic one. The mood episodes of bipolar disorder can last for several days, weeks, or even months. Signs of Mania If you are experiencing a manic episode of bipolar depression, you may have some of the following symptoms: High energy—notably much more energy than usualFeeling invincibleMore prone to irritabilityFeeling like you don’t need much sleepTalking fasterRacing thoughtsFeeling like you have a lot to say; going from one topic to another in quick successionFeeling extremely productive and creativeEngaging in risky behaviorsMay be unable to function normally and fulfill daily responsibilitiesMay experience psychosis, which cay include hallucinations, hearing voices, and delusions Hypomania Hypomania is a more subdued form of mania. You may experience many of the same symptoms as people who are manic, but you won’t experience psychosis, and you will be more able to function on a day-to-day basis. People who experience hypomania more than mania may not realize that they have bipolar disorder, because their symptoms may be less obvious. Signs of Depressive Episodes Depressive episodes of bipolar depression can be debilitating and severe. Here are some signs that you may be experiencing a depressive episode: Heavy feelings of sadnessFeelings of desperationFeelings of guiltThinking you are worthlessChanges in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or having trouble sleepingChanging in eating patterns, including loss of appetite or eating excessivelyTrouble focusingRestlessness or slowed down feelingSuicidal thoughts Hypomania vs. Mania: What's the Difference? How to Find Out If You Have Bipolar Disorder Because bipolar disorder resembles other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or depression, it’s important to get a formal diagnosis of the disorder to be sure that it’s what you are experiencing. Getting properly diagnosed also ensures that you will receive the best treatment. Taking the first steps toward diagnosis can be scary, but knowing what is going on with you, and getting help, means you are that much closer to feeling more like yourself again. Getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis usually first involves visiting your healthcare provider. They will do a physical exam and may order blood work. Blood testing can’t tell you if you have bipolar disorder, but it can rule out medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms such as thyroid imbalances. If your provider believes you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, they will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a formal diagnosis. Usually, bipolar disorder is diagnosed if you show a pattern of alternating major depression with mania or hypomania. You have to have had at least one occurrence of mania or hypomania to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder Treatment Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Medication is the foundation of bipolar treatment, and most people need to be on medication for the rest of their lives. Treatment for bipolar disorder works; the sooner and more diligently you treat it, the better. Medications There are various medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder, and treatment plans may vary depending on your symptoms, medical history, and how you react to a particular medication. Options for treatment include: Mood stabilizers, such as lithium Anti-psychotics Antidepressants Therapy Therapy for bipolar disorder is important and can help people understand what’s going on with them, and what they can do to keep their symptoms in check. Therapy is an important way that people with bipolar disorder to prevent future episodes. Your therapist can also help ensure that you continue to take your medication and that other behavioral and lifestyle changes are adhered to. Types of therapy used for bipolar disorder include: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy Family-focused therapy Other Treatments Lifestyle and behavioral changes are vital when it comes to treating bipolar disorder and maintaining a healthy state. People with bipolar benefit from: Getting enough sleep and sticking to a regular sleep schedule and routine Eating a healthy balanced diet and eating regularly Journaling and keeping a mood diary can be helpful Joining a bipolar disorder support group can help you feel less alone and help you keep up with your treatment plan Reducing drug and alcohol use is important Checking in regularly with your care team is a must, as is sticking to your medication treatment plan What Medications Are Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder? A Word From Verywell Learning the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be helpful, and can be eye-opening for someone who suspects they may have the disorder. Still, the only way you can know for sure that you have bipolar disorder is to visit your healthcare provider for an evaluation. It’s important that people with bipolar disorder receive thorough treatment, so don’t delay getting a diagnosis. Taking that first step can be frightening but getting proper treatment for bipolar disorder is the first step on your journey of healing and wellness. Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in Women 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bipolar Disorder. Özdemir O, Coşkun S, Aktan Mutlu E, et al. Family History in Patients with Bipolar Disorder. Archives of Neuropsychiatry. 2016;53(3):276-279. doi:10.5152/npa.2015.9870 Dell'Osso B, Cafaro R, Ketter TA. Has Bipolar Disorder become a predominantly female gender related condition? Analysis of recently published large sample studies. International Journal of Bipolar Disorder. 2021;9(1):3. doi:10.1186/s40345-020-00207-z Kerner B. Genetics of bipolar disorder. The Application of Clinical Genetics. 2014;7:33-42. doi:10.2147/TACG.S39297 American Psychiatric Association. What Are Bipolar Disorders? U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Living Well with Bipolar Disorder. By Wendy Wisner Wendy Wisner is a health and parenting writer, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and mom to two awesome sons. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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