Self-tests can be informative and can even nudge people to seek further help if appropriate, but they can’t replace the value or accuracy of meeting with a professional.  Bipolar Depression in particular can be very difficult to evaluate, and to distinguish correctly from ADHD, unipolar depression mixed with some anxiety, reactions to traumatic events, or even a medical condition.  Traditional tests and even the official DSM list of Bipolar symptoms are typically just one piece of the puzzle in arriving at an accurate diagnosis.  Given this complexity, working with a provider highly specialized in Bipolar specifically can be critical to getting the right diagnosis and the right help in a timely way.  In one study, those with a Bipolar depression went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for an average of 12 years.  So, if you have concerns after doing some reading or taking a self-test, please do seek out consultation with a professional extensively trained in working with Bipolar.  You can always take the results of an online test to discuss in person.

With Bipolar Depression being so frequently missed or misdiagnosed, the therapist should ask not only about self-observed symptoms but also:

  • the family history of mental conditions

  • friends’ and family perception of symptoms

  • past response to medication

  • age at the first major depression

  • long-term patterns in symptoms

Bipolar Mood Check- Psych Education

Bipolar Self-Test HCL-32

Finally, professionals already familiar with Bipolar may find useful this Bipolarity Index developed by Drs. Gary Sachs, Nassir Ghaemi and others in a joint project between Harvard and the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder.  Please note that this tool is still under development and the 100 point scoring system has not yet been validated.  The table is a little confusing, but you should circle one space in each row for what best describes you, then points are assigned as labeled at the top.

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