A bipolar test is not like a test for diabetes or high cholesterol.
Bipolar disorder cannot be diagnosed with a blood test, an x-ray, or even a brain scan!
Instead, the first step in diagnosing bipolar disorder is through a screening test or diagnostic evaluation by a mental health professional.1
A diagnostic test identifies whether or not you have bipolar disorder while a screening test just provides a rough estimate of whether or not bipolar disorder is likely. The benefit of a screening test is that you can take it on your own if you are considering whether you might have Bipolar Disorder.
A positive screen merely shows the POSSIBILITY of bipolar disorder!
It MUST be followed up by a consultation with a mental health professional such as a board certified psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist who specializes in mood disorders.
I know you are in a hurry to go ahead with your bipolar test, but it is important to first understand what these tests can and cannot tell you. If you screen positive, you need to follow-up with a skilled clinician. Only go ahead with these bipolar self-tests if you understand you cannot diagnose bipolar disorder over the Internet! The only benefit of taking an online screening test is that it will provide you a series of structured questions that tap into the various symptoms and behavioral presentation of Bipolar Disorder followed by a way that you can score your responses and determine if you screened positive.
Step 1 – Testing for Bipolar Mania
Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania (i.e. the “ups”) and in some cases, periods of depression (i.e. the “downs”) along with periods of a normal, stable mood. So the first step is to test for any episodes of mania.
Here are two quick tests for mania:
Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ)
Has there ever been a period of time when you were not your usual self and:
- You felt so good or so hyper that other people thought you were not your normal self or you were so hyper that you got into trouble?
- You were so irritable that you shouted at people or started fights or arguments?
- You felt much more self-confident than usual?
- You got much less sleep than usual and found you didn’t really miss it?
- You were much more talkative or spoke much faster than usual?
- Thoughts raced through your head or you couldn’t slow your mind down?
- You were so easily distracted by things around you that you had trouble concentrating or staying on track?
- You had much more energy than usual?
- You were much more active or did many more things than usual?
- You were much more social or outgoing than usual, for example, you telephoned friends in the middle of the night?
- You were much more interested in sex than usual?
- You did things that were unusual for you or that other people might have thought were excessive, foolish, or risky?
- Spending money got you or your family into trouble?
A “Yes” to 7 or more of the above questions suggests you may have had a period of mania. Bipolar mania is harder to diagnose than bipolar depression and the MDQ is NOT 100% reliable. Even though this test has been validated through clinical research and is widely used in medical practice, it sometimes gives false positives.
You can also screen for bipolar mania with the Hypomania Checklist (HCL-10).
HCL-10 Test for Bipolar Mania
This test is a refinement of the Hypomania Checklist (HCL-32 and HCL-15) and includes the 10 bipolar signs and symptoms that research shows most reliably indicate at least mild mania.
Check through the following 10 bipolar signs and symptoms, counting “1” for each “yes” if you have experienced this for a period of at least 4 days:
1. More drive and energy.
2. More self-confidence.
3. Increased social activity and work motivation.
4. Increased physical activity.
5. More plans and ideas.
6. Less shy, less inhibited.
7. More talkative than usual.
8. More puns and jokes, faster thinking, laughing more.
9. Extremely happy mood, over-euphoric.
10. Over-activity (e.g., shopping, business, telephone calls, traveling, driving, visiting people).
If you scored 7 or above (i.e. answered “yes”), then you have a positive screen for mild, moderate or potentially “Bipolar I” type of mania.
(You can also take the more detailed HCL-32 online bipolar self-test.)
Step 2 – Testing for Bipolar Depression
Have you had episodes of serious “downs”? For example, have you experienced two weeks or longer of feeling sad or hopeless? Or have you been unable to work or enjoy usually pleasurable activities like sex or time with loved ones? During these downs, consider if you experience at least 4 of the following:
- Loss of interest and pleasure in most things
- Appetite or weight change
- Sleep disturbance
- Physical slowing or agitation
- Fatigue or low energy
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Poor concentration
- Suicidal thoughts
Step 3 – Test for bipolar behavior
The final step in your bipolar test (once you have checked for BOTH depression AND mania) is to establish you are actually demonstrating “bipolar behavior” – are your symptoms having a demonstrable negative impact on your daily functioning?
Do your manic episodes lead to problems at work or home such as fights, legal problems, money problems, of falling out with family members or friends?
Does your behavior during these periods make the people close to you concerned, annoyed, irritated, or critical? A “Yes” to these questions is the third and final element in a positive screen.
Another strong indicator is having a close blood relative (parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt) who has been diagnosed as bipolar (or manic depressive).
Remember – This is not really a definitive bipolar test -it is just a self-screen. Consult with a mental health professional and read this excellent Fact Sheet on self-testing for bipolar disorder.
The most common misdiagnosis is confusing major (but unipolar) depression with bipolar depression. However, it is possible to test for bipolar depression.
Bipolar Type 2 / Soft Bipolar Test
As you may know there are different types of bipolar disorder. Some tests focus on testing across the “bipolar spectrum”. Click to discover tests for bipolar ii and soft bipolar.
The BEST bipolar test
You MUST understand the bipolar test here is only a FIRST STEP. We are not pretending that an accurate, reliable and definitive diagnosis can be performed using a checklist over the Internet!
The “gold standard” as far as tests for bipolar disorder are concerned is NOT just a questionnaire, but instead, an EXTENDED CONVERSATION with a skilled and experienced clinician who specializes in Bipolar or mood disorders. Look for these signs indicating that you are being properly screened:
- You are asked in detail about family history, including relatives who were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and those who did not get formally diagnosed but who demonstrated mood swings and other indications of mania.
- You are encouraged to bring someone who has known you very well and for a long time in order to provide some objectivity and perspective.
- A systematic and detailed life history and timeline of all potential bipolar disorder signs and symptoms is taken, for example through using the life chart method.
- A recognized set of criteria is used to assess you, for example the diagnostic criteria from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).