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HealthInfo Canterbury

Finding out if I have bipolar disorder

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include depression, extreme high mood (hypomania or mania), and sometimes, psychosis. Read this factsheet from Patient.info to learn more about these symptoms.

Tests and diagnosis

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose. This is because some people with depression may have bipolar disorder, but have not yet had a period of high mood (mania).

It can be even harder to diagnose in young people, because their first symptoms can be quite different from adults' symptoms. Young people might not be diagnosed with bipolar disorder for several years, until they have developed the more recognisable symptoms of very high and very low moods.

There are no specific tests to diagnose bipolar disorder. Your doctor may make a diagnosis by talking to you and your family, and reviewing your symptoms over time. It may take some time to get a definite diagnosis.

Even though it may take time to diagnose bipolar disorder in young people who are acting strangely, it is still very important for them to be assessed by a mental health team.

Hospital admission

Sometimes there is a significant risk of harm when someone is unwell. The risk can either be to the patient themselves or to other people. At these times a hospital admission is necessary. The patient may be a voluntary admission (they chose to seek the help recommended) or a compulsory patient (they do not accept the recommended treatment and their doctor has used the Mental Health [Compulsory Assessment and Treatment] Act 1992).

On the next page: Living with bipolar disorder

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated March 2016.

See also:

Psychosis

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Review key: HIBIP-52193