Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a serious long-term form of depression that cannot be self treated. If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, full evaluation with a bipolar test administered by a medical specialist is recommended. As medical management of this disorder is required, it is not recommended that you attempt to test yourself.
But when is it appropriate to see a physician for a bipolar test? If you know you suffer from symptoms of depression, knowing the symptoms and signs of manic-depressive disorder is the first step in determining whether or not you need full evaluation.
Manic-depressive disorder is characterized by swings between depression and mania. Both ends of the spectrum may be very mild, or they may be very severe. The mood swings can occur as infrequently as a couple times a year, or as frequently as a couple times a day. In some cases, they may occur simultaneously. The swings are called cycles; an individual may cycle slowly, with each phase lasting months, or even years. Others cycle rapidly, with multiple mood swings in one day. Unfortunately, this varies in each individual, making it more difficult for even professionals to recognize the symptoms.
During the manic phase, a person may experience euphoria, extreme optimism, an inflated sense of self esteem, increased physical activity, inability to concentrate and the need for less sleep than normal. In extreme cases, there may be rapid speech patterns, racing thoughts, poor judgment, use of alcohol or other drugs and controlled substances, and a break from reality, or psychosis. In this extreme condition, a person may have hallucinations, hear voices talking and experience paranoia.
During the depression phase, symptoms are typical of depression; i.e., sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, guilt, sleep problems, changes in eating patterns or appetite, loss of interest in participating in usual activities and inability to concentrate. In extreme cases, as with other types of depression, there may be suicidal thoughts, gestures or behavior.
In most cases, symptoms of bipolar disorder are noted by family members and friends, but not recognized. The person with bipolar disorder doesn't recognize how their emotional instability impacts their work, school and daily activities. As a result, the disorder often goes unrecognized and untreated until the symptoms and their consequences become so severe they can no longer be ignored.
Some people who suffer from this disorder enjoy the feeling of euphoria they get during the manic phase. Many of the symptoms give them positive reinforcement for not wanting treatment; for example, increased sex drive and an increase in their drive to perform or achieve goals. The swing back to depression is not very pleasant, however, and there is always a swing back. Some people also engage in risk-taking behavior when they are in the manic phase, resulting in health, legal and financial issues and their consequences.
In summary, the best bipolar test is to know the symptoms and to educate family and friends to recognize them. And remember that bipolar disorder does not get better by itself, so do not try and self treat. If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, or if you suspect someone in your life does, get help from a mental health specialist.