Self-tests for bipolar disorder can’t give you a definitive diagnosis, but they can be a useful tool for reflection.
Because mental health care isn’t accessible and affordable to everyone, some people want to test themselves for mental health conditions on their own.
However, to receive an official diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a mental health professional needs to assess you. They can evaluate your symptoms and compare them to the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.
Online tests for bipolar disorder are not an official diagnostic tool. However, they may be a useful starting point for discussion with a mental health professional.
Only a mental health professional can officially diagnose bipolar disorder.
Many people self-diagnose with mental health conditions, meaning they look at the diagnostic criteria and find that their symptoms fit the diagnosis. But to receive an official bipolar disorder diagnosis, it’s essential to talk with a licensed mental health professional.
Another issue is that bipolar disorder can look similar to other conditions. You might self-diagnose the wrong condition.
An official diagnosis can help you receive appropriate, effective treatment. Research-backed bipolar disorder treatments can include medications, talk therapy, and self-care strategies. These treatment options aim to help you manage your symptoms.
Bipolar diagnosis requirements
In the United States, clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) to diagnose bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.
The DSM-5-TR distinguishes several types of bipolar disorder, each with its own features.
The types of bipolar disorder are:
- Bipolar I disorder: You have at least one episode of mania. You may or may not experience depressive episodes.
- Bipolar II disorder: You experience one or more depressive episodes with one or more episodes of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania.
- Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): You have less-severe symptoms of depression and hypomania that last at least 2 years per episode.
- Unspecified bipolar disorder: You have manic and depressive episodes but your symptoms don’t fully meet the criteria for the above types.
The DSM-5-TR defines manic episodes as an elevated, expansive, or agitated mood that lasts at least 1 week. Manic episodes also involve symptoms like:
- high self-esteem
- being unable or unwilling to sleep, yet still feeling energized
- nonstop or fast talking
- racing thoughts
- difficulty paying attention to one thing at a time
- doing many activities at once
- engaging in impulsive or harmful activities, like overspending, sex without using a condom, substance use, or driving dangerously
Hypomania is similar to mania, but it’s less severe.
According to the DSM-5-TR, depressive episodes last for 2 weeks or more. They involve feelings of sadness, loss of interest in your usual activities, and four or more of the following symptoms:
- changes in sleep, weight, or appetite
- difficulty thinking or concentrating
- feeling worthlessness or guilty
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicidal intent
Help is out there
If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:
- Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Call 911 or your local emergency services number if you feel safe to do so.
If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.
If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.
The DSM-5-TR has also defined additional criteria for diagnosing rapid cycling bipolar disorder. It’s not a distinct type of bipolar disorder, but people with any bipolar disorder type can experience rapid cycling. It involves at least four episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states in 1 year.
There is no definitive at-home test for bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder has to be diagnosed by a mental health professional.
However, you may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions to figure out whether you’ve had a manic or depressive episode.
The following questions might help you identify a manic episode:
- Did you have an extremely elevated mood, where you felt very happy, self-assured, and energized?
- Did you feel energized and restless to the point of being unable or unwilling to sleep?
- Were you talking and thinking very fast?
- Was your behavior noticeably more reckless, impulsive, and spontaneous than usual?
- How long did this period last? (Manic episodes last at least 1 week.)
Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences depressive episodes. However, the following questions may help you identify whether you’ve experienced a depressive episode:
- Was your mood lower than usual?
- Did you feel hopeless, worthless, or numb?
- Did you have a change in your appetite and sleep schedule? This could include eating or sleeping too much or too little.
- Did you lose interest in your usual activities?
- Did you feel more tired than usual?
- Did you find it hard to concentrate and think clearly?
If you’ve answered yes to many of these questions, you may have experienced a mood episode. It’s worth speaking with a medical professional about getting screened for bipolar disorder.
No at-home tests can definitively diagnose a teenager with bipolar disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can easily be mistaken for the symptoms of another condition, like depression, and vice versa.
It’s important to talk with a mental health professional if your teenager has symptoms of bipolar disorder. Early intervention can help them feel better faster.
Consider contacting a therapist who specializes in treating adolescents.
What to do if you think you or your child has bipolar disorder
Talking with a mental health professional is a good first step. Consider looking for someone who has experience in treating bipolar disorder specifically.
If you can, you may want to consider writing out your child’s symptoms. This can be a good starting point for speaking with a clinician.
Certain bipolar disorder apps are designed to help track your mood and monitor symptoms.
Many conditions are commonly mistaken for bipolar disorder. The reverse is also true: Bipolar disorder may be misdiagnosed as another condition.
According to a 2018 review, up to 40% of people with bipolar disorder receive misdiagnoses.
These conditions include:
- borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- major depression
If you think you’ve received a misdiagnosis, consider talking with your current treatment team, such as your psychiatrist, therapist, and doctor. If you are unsatisfied with their evaluation, you can look for a second opinion.
You can’t definitively diagnose yourself with bipolar disorder. However, at-home and online “tests” may help you reflect on your symptoms.
If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, it’s a good idea to speak with a mental health professional — preferably one who specializes in bipolar disorder. This can be a good first step in finding the support you or a loved one needs.