|The first step in
getting a proper diagnosis is to talk to a doctor, who may conduct a
physical examination, an interview, and lab tests. Bipolar disorder
cannot currently be identified through a blood test or a brain scan,
but these tests can help rule out other contributing factors, such
as a stroke or brain tumor. If the problems are not caused by other
illnesses, the doctor may conduct a mental health evaluation. The
doctor may also provide a referral to a trained mental health
professional, such as a psychiatrist, who is experienced in
diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder.
The doctor or mental health professional should conduct a complete diagnostic evaluation. He or she should discuss any family history of bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses and get a complete history of symptoms. The doctor or mental health professionals should also talk to the person's close relatives or spouse and note how they describe the person's symptoms and family medical history.
People with bipolar
disorder are more likely to seek help when they are depressed than
when experiencing mania or hypomania. Therefore, a careful medical
history is needed to assure that bipolar disorder is not mistakenly
diagnosed as major depressive disorder, which is also called
unipolar depression. Unlike people with bipolar disorder, people who
have unipolar depression do not experience mania. Whenever possible,
previous records and input from family and friends should also be
included in the medical history.