Bipolar Symptoms That Are Like Other Disorders

Diagnosing mental health symptoms can be a difficult and daunting task. Clinicians rely on self-reports from patients who may give inaccurate, vague or exaggerated descriptions of their symptoms. Many diagnoses are similar, and symptoms often overlap among diagnoses. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience both depressed and mania symptoms, which makes it a unique diagnosis. However, there are several different diagnoses that exist that are confused with bipolar disorder.

Induced Moods

Two diagnoses that can be confused with bipolar disorder are mood disorder due to a general medical condition and substance-induced disorder. Mood disorder due to a general medical condition is characterized by mood changes related to medical conditions, according to Internet Mental Health. For example, if a person has a debilitating disease, he may be depressed because of this. This may mimic the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder. Substance-induced mood disorder also brings out mood changes in an individual. Individuals who use drugs typically experience mood swings as a result of their drug use (for example, the high or the withdrawal). Just because someone is experiencing mood swings does not mean she should be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Depressive Disorders

Major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder are two forms of depression. Major depressive disorder is another term for severe depression. Individuals who are bipolar go through periods where they are deeply depressed. A clinician may falsely diagnose someone depressed if they do not ask about the patient’s mania symptoms. Dysthymic disorder is described as having a moderate amount of depression for a long period of time (more than two years), according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV-TR). This also may be misdiagnosed for the same reason as major depressive disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder

According to the DSM-IV-TR, individuals with a cyclothymic disorder experience hypomanic episodes, which can be described as manic symptoms that are less severe. They also experience some depression, but not enough to be categorized as major depressive disorder. Cyclothymic disorder is very similar to bipolar disorder, but the symptoms are not severe enough to diagnose it as such.

Psychotic Disorders

According to the DSM-IV-TR, individuals with bipolar disorder often experience delusions, irritability, agitation and catatonic symptoms. These are similar to symptoms of a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia. The difference between psychotic disorders and bipolar disorder is that psychotic disorders do not have the mood symptoms of bipolar disorder.

About this Author

Cristina A. Fernandez is a newly discovered writer focusing in the field of psychology. She has extensive experience writing about a variety of topics from the field of psychology, including mental health disorders, addictions, and psychotropic medications. Fernandez graduated at the top of her class from the University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in psychological services.