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What is a Bipolar Disorder Test?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 June 2018
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A bipolar disorder test could refer to several possible things. It may refer to self-tests people can administer to determine if their symptoms suggest they have bipolar disorder. Another interpretation is that it is a series of observations and questions from mental health professionals to see if the disorder is a likely diagnosis. Lastly, it might be defined as medical testing that could diagnose some physical aspect of this illness.

An informal bipolar disorder test is the self-test. People can find these in books and also on many websites. They ask a series of questions with true/false or yes/no answers, which determine mood fluctuations and which, when rated, suggest likelihood of a person having bipolar disorder. These are not exhaustive, comprehensive and fully accurate tests but they can be a good way of looking at potential risk for a serious illness. Taking a few bipolar disorder test types on a variety of websites and repeatedly getting back positive results would suggest this is a matter that ought to be brought up with a psychiatrist for more extensive study.

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The real bipolar disorder test comes from mental health professionals who are better trained to look for its symptoms than any informal self-test can be. Testing may include questions about behavior and is likely to contain continued observation to determine that diagnosis is accurate. Especially for psychiatrists, evaluating how people respond to medication for bipolar disorder helps to diagnose them and might suggest alternate diagnoses when appropriate. As with self-testing, evaluation by mental health professionals is not 100% accurate.

This leads naturally to the concept of some form of medical testing that would accurately diagnose bipolar disorder. The goal of being able to check blood or do a genetic analysis to confirm presence of the condition is a laudable one. At present there is no simple test for the illness, though there are few tests that might help diagnose bipolar by identifying some of its features.

Some companies market a home bipolar disorder test to test for a couple of genes associated with the disorder, but not having the genes doesn’t suggest absence of illness, and having them doesn’t necessarily suggest presence of the condition. Sometimes blood or saliva may be indicative of mood state, and could be used to suggest mood fluctuations, but profound fluctuations are generally observable by any good mental health professional. Another potential testing tool is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), since there have been studies on the way the bipolar brain appears and acts. If bipolar brains are alike, looking for similarities on MRI might be the best way to confirm the condition, but this is not yet available.

Sadly no true bipolar disorder test exists at present. It’s hoped that this will change, given the imprecise diagnostic techniques that are currently in place. Ironically greater awareness of the disease is now leading to many false diagnoses of it, while plenty of people who truly have the illness still aren’t getting a proper diagnosis.

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