Diagnosis and assessment

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not straight-forward, as symptoms often vary across individuals. This category contains information about how bipolar I and II disorders are diagnosed, their early detection, and the assessment tools used to measure the symptom severity. Click on the links or the tabs below to access the information, or browse and search via the section on the left.

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Bipolar disorder diagnosis


How is a diagnosis of bipolar disorder made? Bipolar disorder is characterised by episodes of mania or less severe hypomania, and depression. Bipolar I disorder is determined by the existence of mania, which may include psychotic features, while bipolar II disorder is determined by less severe hypomania. Cyclothymic disorder is an overall milder form of bipolar disorder, however symptoms occur fairly often and constantly.  A manic episode is at least one week of extremely high spirited or irritableness most of the time. There are changes in normal behaviour. These include exaggerated self-esteem/grandiosity, less sleep, talking more, talking loudly and quickly, being…


Early detection

Why is early detection of bipolar disorder important? Early detection of bipolar disorder can prevent or delay the onset of the disorder, and improve clinical outcomes in people who develop it. What is the evidence regarding early detection of bipolar disorder? Moderate to high quality evidence suggests large effects of having psychotic symptoms or a family history of bipolar disorder as risk factors for transition to bipolar disorder in people with major depression. There was a medium-sized effect of higher risk of transition to bipolar disorder with early age of onset of depression, and a small effect of having a…

Assessment tools

Outcome assessment tools

What are outcome assessment tools for bipolar disorder? Reliable and valid assessment tools are vital for assessing a range of variables including symptoms, functioning and quality of life. They are used within a controlled research environment but are also useful in clinical practice. The quality of assessment tools can be measured in various ways. ‘Reliability’ refers to the reproducibility of an instrument’s results across different assessors, settings and times. ‘Construct validity’ is the extent to which an instrument measures the theoretical construct it was designed to measure. This involves ‘convergent validity’, which is the degree of correlation between different scales…

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