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Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis & Tests

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder involves consideration of many factors. Often, proper diagnosis and treatment requires a stay in an inpatient depression treatment center where individuals are monitored by behavioral and medical experts. The health care provider may do some or all of the following:

  • Observe behavior and mood
  • Obtain medical history, including any medical problems and current and former medications taken
  • Ask about recent mood swings and how long a client has experienced them
  • Inquire about family medical history, particularly whether anyone has or had bipolar disorder
  • Perform a physical examination to identify or rule out physical causes of the symptoms
  • Request laboratory tests to check for thyroid problems or drug levels
  • Speak with family members to discuss their observations of the client’s behavior

Mood-stabilizing medication can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, patients often need help and support to take medicine properly and to ensure that any episodes of mania and depression are treated as early as possible.

Some people stop taking the medication as soon as they feel better or because they want to experience the productivity and creativity associated with mania. Although these early manic states may feel good, discontinuing medication may have very negative consequences.

Suicide is a very real risk during both mania and depression. Suicidal thoughts, ideas and gestures in people with bipolar affective disorder require immediate attention.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Many people with bipolar disorder turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to manage the troublesome symptoms of their illness. While drugs or alcohol may help temporarily ease some of these symptoms, substance abuse ultimately makes the problems worse. If you are already on bipolar medications such as Lithium or Depakote, drugs and alcohol may interfere with your ability to control your symptoms and can also pose severe health complications such as organ failure. Drug and alcohol abuse can also change the brain’s chemistry, affecting the brain’s reward center and making depressive symptoms more intense.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood-stabilizing medications such as valproic acid, lithium and carbamazepine. These are effective for treating both the manic and depressive phases, as well as avoiding future symptoms.

Antidepressant drugs may be useful throughout the depressive phase if the antidepressants are used with a mood stabilizer. Mood stabilizers are significant in individuals with bipolar disorder since without a mood stabilizer, antidepressants may trigger mania. (Keep in mind that individuals with bipolar disorder II may be misdiagnosed with depression only because they do not experience full-fledged mania. If these patients take antidepressants without mood stabilizers, it can trigger a manic episode.)

Antipsychotic drugs can help an individual who has lost touch with reality. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines may also help in some cases. The client may need to stay in a depression treatment center until his or her mood has stabilized and symptoms are under control.

The Ranch mental health treatment center’s specially trained medical and behavioral experts draw upon a wide range of evidence-based traditional and alternative therapies to treat the full spectrum of mental health and addictive disorders that prevent individuals from living life to the fullest. Learn more about our treatment programs or call 888-502-7510.