Unfortunately, there's no simple, quick and easy test to diagnose people suspected of experiencing bipolar disorder. In fact, this ailment isn't even a single disorder. Rather, it's a term used to describe a number of mood disorders that are identified by mania or manic episodes, bouts of depression, and possibly psychotic episodes. One of or all the above can be present, making a simple and easy test for the disorder difficult to put together.
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
A psychiatrist will typically base a bipolar disorder diagnosis on the patient's own descriptions of their behavior and feelings. They may also use feedback from family and friends of the patient along with their own observations of the patient.
To be diagnosed, an individual must meet a certain list of requirements.
Tests to Determine its Presence
Though a medical professional may administer a psychological bipolar test - weighing the patient's symptoms against various criteria for diagnosing the disease - there is no single test that can nail an accurate analysis. There is also no biological test for determining whether a patient has the disorder.
The said, doctors may still administer certain physical tests to ensure that a patient's symptoms are not being caused by a possible medical problem. For example, a brain tumor or lesion can often cause a sudden change in behavior patterns that could be mistaken for bipolar disorder.
And though there are no definitive physical or biological tests for this disorder, there have been advances in the field. The Mayo Clinic is currently developing an MRSI method that seeks out and pinpoints particular patterns of metabolic activity in the brain that are common to people with bipolar mood disorder.
Misdiagnosis of Symptoms
There are several diseases that are commonly mistaken for bipolar disorder. These include schizoaffective disorder, drug abuse, drug-induced psychosis, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder.
How the Condition is Classified
Once diagnosed through various clinical and psychological tests, bipolar disorders are often classified into one of four groupings. These include:
Bipolar I: In Bipolar I, a patient must have experienced at least one manic episode. This manic episode is not required to be accompanied by or followed by an episode of depression.
Bipolar II: Bipolar II is identified by more hypomanic episodes than typical manic expressions. The patient must have also exhibited at least one major depressive incident. Hypomanic episodes are often not as extreme or debilitating as manic versions.
Cyclothymia: Cyclothymia is characterized by hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes that are not major. For example, the patient experiences hypomanic episodes alongside depressive instances, but those depressive ones aren't debilitating.
Bipolar-NOS: Bipolar NOS stands for Not Otherwise Specified. It is a blanket term that doctors use to diagnose a patient as bipolar, but without a classification. For Bipolar-NOS, a traditional bipolar test or interview may not be as effective for diagnosing the patient.