What is a bipolar disorder test?:
Doctors who think their patients may be suffering from bipolar disorder will administer many tests to help them make an accurate diagnosis. A test for bipolar disorder can range from simple question-and-answer psychological test, to a complex 3D brain scan in a large hospital scanner.
In many cases, a test for bipolar disorder is designed to rule out other mental and physical conditions that can be confused with bipolar disorder.
But each test for bipolar disorder is only part of a puzzle:
There is no one test can confirm or rule out bipolar disorder in a patient. A genuine diagnosis of bipolar disorder takes a lot of time and observation of a patient by a qualified psychiatric doctor.
There are also many websites on the internet that offer what they call an online bipolar disorder test. Sometimes these mimic the psychological tests used by doctors to help them make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Some DNA self-testing kits also claim to be able to show if a person has bipolar disorder. But any bipolar disorder test that is self-administered – including any online bipolar test – can serve little useful purpose. In the end, an online bipolar disorder test simply cannot show if the person who takes it has bipolar disorder or not.
It is not possible to diagnose yourself with bipolar disorder:
If you think you see signs of bipolar disorder symptoms in yourself, or someone you know, it is important to see a doctor for a medical assessment.
What You’ll Learn on This Page About Taking a Bipolar Disorder Test
On this page you will find information about the different types of bipolar disorder test that doctors use when they diagnose patients.
- You will also find information about the various types of online bipolar disorder test – including an explanation of why their results are almost useless, and may even cause potentially serious problems.
- An online bipolar test or bipolar disorder quiz can encourage some people to “self-identify” with bipolar disorder – that is, they assume they have the condition when they do not, or have never sought medical advice about their condition. You’ll learn about some of the problems of self-identifying with bipolar disorder, including the issue of “celebrity bipolar disorder”.
- In the second part of this page, titled “Am I Bipolar?” you can learn about some of the common signs of bipolar disorder, and where you can seek medical help if you think you may have bipolar disorder symptoms – instead of wasting time and worry, or even wasting money, on an online bipolar disorder test.
- You can also read more in detail about bipolar symptoms and bipolar disorder treatments on Bipolar Disorder Symptoms .
Doctors will usually give a patient several different tests when they assess them for bipolar disorder. Some of the tests will check for other mental and physical conditions with symptoms that can be confused with the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
At this time, there is no one test that can confirm or rule out bipolar disorder in a patient:
Each test is only one stage in a complicated process that can take even a skilled psychiatric doctor many months to resolve – and in some cases it can take years.
List of Types of Bipolar Disorder Tests: The Bipolar Disorder Test Guide
The common types of bipolar disorder test used by doctors include:
• Psychological tests for Bipolar Disorder
• Blood Tests for Bipolar Disorder
• Brain Scan Tests for Bipolar Disorder
• Genetic (DNA) Tests for Bipolar Disorder
Psychological tests and blood tests are almost always carried out by a doctor assessing a patient for bipolar disorder. Brain scans are less common, and genetic (DNA) tests for bipolar disorder are usually only done as part of a program of scientific research. Each of these types of test is described in detail in the following sections.
Psychological Tests – Bipolar Disorder Test Guide
Psychological tests are the most common type of bipolar disorder test. Often they take the form of question-and-answer quizzes. They are quick and simple to administer, and they are usually a first step in helping a doctor determine if their patient may have bipolar disorder.
For example, a psychological bipolar disorder test might ask if a person is having trouble sleeping or concentrating at work, which are common symptoms of bipolar disorder. They might ask a patient if they experience mood swings, or cycles of good moods and bad moods – and to rate how they feel during these times on a simple scale.
Often the answers on a bipolar disorder quiz are assigned a numerical score by the doctor administering the test. If the score for all the answers is more than a certain value, it can indicate that a patient needs further clinical assessment. On the other hand, a low score on such a psychological bipolar disorder test might indicate that patient is unlikely to be suffering from bipolar disorder.
But no Psychological Test on Its Own Can Determine if a Person Has Bipolar Disorder, or if They Do not:
Question-and-answer psychological tests are unreliable for many reasons, even when administered by an experienced doctor.
A person answering a psychological bipolar disorder test might be confused about the questions, or they might not be able to recognize their own symptoms well enough to give an accurate answer. A patient might exaggerate how they really feel, or try to downplay how they feel – perhaps because they are confused, or even because they are frightened about what the results might show.
People also tend to answer tests in the way that they think is expected of them – perhaps as a result of their school years, when giving the “right answer” can be important. In some cases, people may be already convinced they are suffering from bipolar disorder, and so give answers they think will confirm their belief.
As a result, question and answer tests can give no more than an indication that a patient might be suffering from bipolar disorder.
Some Online Bipolar Tests Mimic the Psychological Tests Given by Doctors
But the results of an online bipolar test or online bipolar quiz are almost worthless, except as a casual curiosity. They can cause unnecessary worry, or even worse problems.
Bipolar Blood Tests – Bipolar Disorder Test Guide
A doctor checking for signs of bipolar disorder will usually carry out blood tests to check the hormone levels of their patients. High levels of some hormones in the blood can reveal illnesses like hyperthyroidism, for example, which can cause symptoms that may be mistaken for bipolar mania.
A blood test can also be a useful indicator of the general health of their patient, which may be important for their diagnosis and treatment.
Giving a blood sample for a blood test is relatively painless, and only takes a few minutes. It usually takes just a few days for the results of the test to come back from the laboratory.
But no blood test can confirm or rule out bipolar disorder on its own.
Bipolar Brain Scans – Bipolar Disorder Test Guide
In some cases a doctor may suggest brain scans for patients while considering a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Brain scans are used to check for some conditions, such as a stroke or a brain tumor, that can cause symptoms that appear similar to some symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Brain scans work on a similar principle to x-rays. They allow doctors to examine some of the processes inside a living human body without harming their patient. There are several different types of brain scan technology, and modern scanners often combine different types of scanning technologies in one machine.
Scanning machines are very large and very expensive, and are usually found only in large hospitals or specialist clinics. Undergoing a brain scan is painless, and is usually done in a few hours in an outpatient clinic. The results of the scan are available almost immediately, although it may take several days or weeks before they can be fully analyzed.
Some recent research suggests that a special type of brain scan may be able to identify the “chemical signature” of bipolar disorder in the brain, but this is still an area of active research.
At this time, no brain scan can confirm or rule out if a person has bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Genetic Tests (DNA tests) – Bipolar Disorder Test Guide
In some cases, a doctor may also request a DNA or genetic test while assessing a patient for bipolar disorder. However, genetic testing for bipolar disorder is usually only carried out as part of a program of scientific research.
Medical researchers have long suspected that there is a genetic link to bipolar disorder, because people are more likely to develop the disorder if someone in their family also has it.
Researchers have now identified some genes in the cells of human DNA that appear to be linked to bipolar disorder. But the presence of these active genes in a person’s DNA does not prove that they have the disorder, or that they will develop it.
Many people who have the active genes in their DNA never develop bipolar disorder, and many people who do not have those genes in their DNA can still develop bipolar disorder. Genetic testing for bipolar disorder can only indicate a higher or lower likelihood that a person may develop bipolar disorder.
Like psychological tests, blood tests, and brain scans, a genetic (DNA) bipolar disorder test cannot confirm or rule-out bipolar disorder on its own.
A DNA test can be carried out on a blood sample, but these days a simple throat swap is usually enough for a laboratory to conduct a test. The results of a DNA test can take a few days or weeks to come back from the laboratory.
Some DNA self-test kits available on the internet claim to be able to test for “bipolar disorder” genes:
These self-test kits are often expensive – and because the presence of active genes linked to bipolar disorder can neither confirm nor rule out the condition, they are of little value – even if the kits function as they claim.
There Is No Simple Test for Bipolar Disorder
It is important to remember that THERE IS NO ONE TEST that can confirm or rule out bipolar disorder:
The tests carried out by a doctor looking for evidence of bipolar disorder form only part of the diagnosis process. A “positive” or “negative” result on any one bipolar disorder test – whether it is a psychological test, a blood test, a brain scan, or a genetic test – only serves as a clue for the doctor trying to determine what may ail their patient.
Diagnosis of bipolar disorder is difficult even for doctors:
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is notoriously difficult to make, even by an experienced psychiatrist. Often it takes months of observation and testing to rule out other conditions. And because bipolar disorder is a long-term illness where the symptoms of a patient changes over weeks and months, a doctor will usually need to observe a patient over a relatively long time before they can reach an accurate diagnosis. As a result, many people may be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for months or even years before a diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be confirmed.
Many symptoms of bipolar disorder can appear similar to the symptoms of other mental disorders, especially other mood disorders. There are also several different types of bipolar disorder- including bipolar 1, bipolar 2, and Cyclothymia.
The symptoms of each type of bipolar disorder differ in degree, and this can also cause confusion about the true nature of the condition. For example, it may be difficult to distinguish the sometimes mild symptoms of cyclothymia from the normal progression of “good” and “bad” moods that everyone feels from time to time in response to normal events in their lives.
Many websites on the internet offer what they call a “bipolar disorder quiz” or a “bipolar online test.”
These appear in many forms, and may also be called “bipolar self-tests”, “bipolar screening quizzes”, “bipolar self-evaluation tests”, “manic depression tests”, or “mood disorder questionnaires.”
In some cases an online bipolar disorder quiz may be based on the genuine psychological tests administered by a doctor checking their patients for bipolar disorder. The popularity of online bipolar tests reflects both the concern and the confusion that many people have about bipolar disorder.
The Problems with an Online Bipolar Disorder Test
At best, the results of an online bipolar test might convince someone that they should consult a doctor for an assessment. But they can do little to determine whether a person actually has bipolar disorder, or does not have it.
In the worst cases, an online bipolar test could cause someone to worry unnecessarily – or even convince someone who should see a doctor that they have nothing to worry about.
Bipolar online tests also downplay the seriousness of mental illness:
They help perpetuate the myth that bipolar disorder is “all in your head”, and not a real medical condition that needs medical treatment.
Some online bipolar tests also demand a fee to get the results – although this may not be obvious until you’ve completed the test and want to know the results.
Think about it – few people would trust the results of an online test for cancer or heart disease:
Bipolar disorder can be a serious mental illness – and so online bipolar tests should not be taken seriously.
The results of an online bipolar test might also encourage some people to “self-identify” as having bipolar disorder. In effect, they are attempting to make their own diagnosis of their own condition.
But even a qualified psychiatrist would never attempt to diagnose themselves with any sort of disorder.
The most obvious problem with “self-identifying” with bipolar disorder is that someone may think the question of their diagnosis is settled, and that they do not need to see a doctor for a genuine diagnosis.
But someone who avoids getting a real diagnosis and treatment from a doctor may be putting themselves at risk, as well as other people who they around them. Many of the early symptoms of bipolar disorder may seem mild, but untreated bipolar disorder can become worse. Someone who diagnoses themselves as having bipolar disorder – and does not seek help or treatment – might be running the risk of letting their condition worsen, with potentially serious results.
On the other hand, many people who “self-identify” as bipolar do not, in fact, have the condition:
Some studies even showed that MOST of people who self-identify as bipolar have never sought medical advice for their condition – and do not actually have bipolar disorder anyway. In one report, a doctor in London gave the example of someone who had decided they were bipolar because they experienced a “mood swing” when they got a parking ticket!
But if some people decide they are “bipolar” without a genuine diagnosis, it can only make it harder for the public to understand the true and serious nature of bipolar disorder – and for people who genuinely suffer from the condition to be understood.
Some people who self-identify as bipolar may have a tendency to use their supposed condition as an excuse for behavior that is not actually caused by bipolar disorder. It might serve as an emotional crutch for people who have behavioral or emotional problems that should be addressed in other ways.
So why Would Anyone “Self-Identify” as Bipolar?
It may seem strange that anyone would claim to have such a potentially serious condition as bipolar disorder when they do not, or do not really know if they have it.
In some cases, people with mood disorders may be frightened of what a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder will mean, or frightened of the treatment they may require. As a result, self-identifying with the disorder seems to be an “easy way out” – it provides an explanation for the way they feel, without them having to do anything about it.
Some studies have shown that many people who self-identify as bipolar have been influenced by reports of celebrities with bipolar disorder in the news media.
A relatively high number of celebrity pop stars and movie stars have reported that they suffer from bipolar disorder in recent years.
A celebrity who says they have bipolar disorder may give strength and encouragement to other people with the disorder, to help them know that their condition is understandable and treatable.
But there is also a danger that celebrities can make a disorder seem “fashionable” among people who are naturally influenced by famous people they admire or identify with.
In many cases, it is not always possible to know if a particular celebrity has been professionally diagnosed with a bipolar disorder by a doctor. The news media is a “distorting lens” that doesn’t always give a clear picture, especially about famous people.
And because bipolar disorder is sometimes perceived to be linked with creativity and artistic genius, it has not been unknown for some people – perhaps even some celebrities – to self-identify as having bipolar disorder in the mistaken belief that this gives them greater artistic credibility.
In a few cases, some people might use such a “self-diagnosis” of bipolar disorder as an excuse for inappropriate behavior, such as violence or drug use.
Many people may worry “am I bipolar?” from time to time:
Several doctors have reported a recent upswing in the number of people who think they may have bipolar disorder based on something they’ve seen on television or read in a magazine. But in spite of the recent slew of stories about bipolar disorder in the news media, bipolar disorder is relatively rare – and so most people who worry about it are really worrying about nothing.
Bipolar disorder only affects about one percent of the adult population, and in almost all cases it can be treated effectively.
No online bipolar disorder test can make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and it is not possible to diagnose yourself with the disorder. And because modern bipolar disorder treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy and prescription drugs, self-treatment would be impossible anyway.
If you suspect you may have bipolar disorder, or think someone you know is showing signs of bipolar disorder, it is important that you get in touch with a doctor who will be able to give you professional medical help. Don’t rely on the results of an online bipolar test, or something you’ve seen on television or read in a magazine.
While an online test probably won’t help, and might well be counterproductive, under what circumstance should you consult a doctor to see if you may have bipolar disorder?
Obviously not everyone in the general population needs to check with their doctor to see if they may have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder only affects about one percent of adults, so it would be a waste of time and medical resources to check everyone.
But the following common signs of bipolar disorder may indicate that you should see a doctor for a clinical assessment:
• Problems falling asleep at night, or staying asleep.
• An inflated sense of self-esteem
• Irritability, distracted behavior
• Poor judgment or reckless behavior
• Increased sexual urges or sexual activity
• Rapid or “pressured” speech
• Racing thoughts
• Hallucinations or delusions
• Feelings of intense sadness or guilt
• Oversleeping, fatigue and apathy
• Changes in body weight
• Poor concentration
• Suicidal thoughts
This is just a short outline of some of the common symptoms of bipolar disorder – and almost all these symptoms can often be caused by other conditions, so they need not cause serious worry. But if you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or you know someone who is, please consult a doctor to find out more about what the problem may be.
Am I Bipolar? Where to Get Help
Unless you are having suicidal thoughts or experiencing major upset in your life, there is no reason to over-react to fears that you may have some form of bipolar disorder. It is usually a simple matter of consulting a doctor to begin a professional medical assessment – and most people will learn there is really nothing to worry about.
There are many places you can seek help. Your local doctor or local hospital is probably the best first choice in most circumstances. The doctors at your local clinic or hospital will be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who will know the correct way to proceed with identifying and treating the condition, if it is necessary.
Many counselors at schools, colleges, adult education centers and community centers will also be able to put you in touch with doctors who can help diagnose and treat mood disorders. But it is important that you ask to be referred to a medical doctor, preferably a psychiatrist – it is not enough just to see a counselor. Bipolar disorder is a potentially serious medical condition, and needs to be assessed by medical professionals.
In many countries, charitable and non-profit groups that specialize in mental health issues operate telephone help lines and drop-in centers that will be able to help you get an appointment with a suitable doctor.
You can find details of the main telephone help lines in Europe and in the United States at the bottom of the this page.
If you are suffering from what seem to be the most severe symptoms of depression or mania, such as hallucinations or thoughts of suicide – or you know someone who is – you must seek help from your local emergency services, doctor, or hospital for help as soon as possible.
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