Quiz: What is Bipolar Disorder?

Dear Neil: I’ve heard many people in recent years talk about bipolar disorder. They say that they have a child who is bipolar, or a husband, or a boss. I have never exactly understood what bipolar is. Can you explain what it means to be bipolar?

Thinking I Might Be in Kansas City

Dear Kansas City: The best description I’m aware of is the Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale, developed by Dr. Ronald Pies and refined by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi. I will reprint it below. If this description fits you, I would recommend you see a psychiatrist or a professional that specializes in mood disorders. Read through this entirely before filling in any blanks.

Some individuals notice that their mood and/or energy levels shift drastically from time to time.
These individuals notice that, at times, their mood and/or energy level is very low, and at other times, very high.
During their ‘’low” phases, these individuals often feel a lack of energy; a need to stay in bed or get extra sleep; and little or no motivation to do things they need to do.
They often put on weight during these periods.
During their low phases, these individuals often feel ”blue”, sad all the time, or depressed.
Sometimes, during these low phases, they feel hopeless or even suicidal.
Their ability to function at work or socially is impaired.
Typically, these low phases last for a few weeks, but sometimes they last only a few days.
Individuals with this pattern may experience “normal” moods in between mood swings, where they function normally.
They may then notice a marked shift or ”switch” in the way they feel.
Their energy increases above what is normal, and they often get things done they would not ordinarily be able to do.
Sometimes, during these “high” periods, these individuals feel as if they have too much energy or feel ”hyper”.
Some individuals, during these high periods, may feel irritable, ‘’on edge” or aggressive.
Some individuals, during these high periods, take on too many activities at once.
During these high periods, some individuals may spend money in ways that cause them trouble.
They may be more talkative, outgoing, or sexual during these periods.
Sometimes their behavior during these high periods seems strange or annoying to others.
Sometimes during the high periods, these individuals get into difficulty with co-workers or the police.
Sometimes they increase their alcohol or non-prescription drug use during these high periods.

Check one:
(   ) This story fits me very well, or almost perfectly
(   ) This story fits me fairly well
(   ) This story fits me to some degree, but not in most respects
(   ) This story does not really describe me at all

Now go back and put a check after each sentence that definitely describes you.

Scoring: each sentence checked is worth one point. Add 6 points if you also answered “fits me very well,” 4 points for “fits me fairly well,” and 2 points for “fits me to some degree.”

Total Score:

If your total score is 13 or above, you fit the diagnostic description of bipolar disorder.

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