Call emergency services:
If you think you cannot stop from harming yourself.
If you hear voices.
If you know someone who has shown signs of suicide.
Watchful waiting may be enough if a mood episode has just started, and you are taking proper medications. If your mood episode has not improved within two weeks, call your doctor.
If you have a loved one who is experiencing a manic episode and is behaving irrationally, contact the person’s doctor and help the person seek treatment.
Who to See
Treatment can include both medications and counseling. It is best to establish a long-term relationship with your care provider(s) so that when you enter a mood disturbance, your care provider(s) can recognize the changes in your behavior and provide a quick diagnosis and treatment.
Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed and treated by any of the following health professionals:
Family doctor (general practitioner or internist)
You may also choose to participate in counseling, which can be very beneficial in helping you deal with mood changes and the effects bipolar disorder has on your life. Any of the following can offer helpful counseling:
Psychiatric nurse specialist
Licensed professional counselor
Who to see for family member support
If you are a family member of a person who has bipolar disorder, it is very important to get the support and help you need. Living with or caring for someone who has bipolar disorder can be very disruptive to your own life.
It may be very helpful for you to seek your own counselor or therapist to help you through the mood disturbances of the person with bipolar disorder. Manic episodes can be particularly difficult for those around the person. Manic behaviors can include:
Loud, rapid, and theatrical speech.
Going without sleep for days at a time, yet still having a high energy level.
Dangerous behaviors (such as spending great sums of money or driving too fast).
These behaviors can either irritate or exhaust family members while the episode lasts. The manic and depressive episodes can also be overwhelming and even frightening..
Family members may also want to seek supportive therapy from any of the following:
Licensed professional counselor
Primary care physician
Often children of parents who have bipolar disorder can be negatively affected by their parents’ mood swings. If you notice anger or depression in your child (such as tearfulness or rebellious behaviors in an older child) related to a parent’s mood swings, it is important to obtain therapy for your child as well.
Exams and Tests
The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made by a medical history, physical exam, and mental status exam(s). If your doctor or therapist suspects you have bipolar disorder, he or she may ask you to complete certain written tests that show your current mental state and the severity of depression or mania. Your doctor may conduct other physical tests (such as a blood test) or mental tests to rule out other possible disorders or diseases.
The earlier bipolar disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of getting the disorder under control. The longer a person goes without treatment, the more difficult it can be to effectively treat the disorder and improve the person’s quality of life. Without treatment, 25% of people who have bipolar disorder attempt suicide. Up to 60% of those with bipolar disorder who do not seek treatment develop drug and alcohol abuse problems, which then makes it difficult to successfully treat their bipolar disorder.