Doctors diagnose bipolar disorder by evaluating patients' answers to questions regarding family history and the frequency, severity and duration of symptoms such as elevated moods, irritability, sleeplessness, and fast thinking or speech, notes WebMD. Doctors then use the criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association to make a final diagnosis.
While most people with bipolar disorder do not have family histories of the condition, there is a genetic component that can aid doctors in making a final diagnosis, states WebMD. In addition to questions regarding high and low mood levels, doctors also ask questions focused on the patient's reasoning, memory and ability to maintain relationships. Patients who suspect they may have bipolar disorder should keep track of their moods, sleep habits, energy levels and behaviors to aid doctors in diagnosing the condition. They should also provide their doctors with a list of all medications they are taking and a breakdown of their exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption patterns.
Doctors may use blood and urine tests to rule out other diseases and conditions that have symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder, according to WebMD. Substance abuse, borderline personality, post-traumatic stress and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders may also lead to the mood swings and impulsive behavior displayed by those with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that alternate between emotional highs and lows, according to Mayo Clinic. Mood changes can occur a few times per year or as frequently as a few times per week. Depressive episodes are marked by feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in daily activities. During episodes of mania, people feel euphoric and full of energy. Bipolar disorder can be treated with mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antidepressant-antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs. Medication choice and dosage is based on patient symptoms.