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Dr Simon Surguladze

Author: Dr Simon SurguladzeConsultant Psychiatrist

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

Up to 70% of people with Bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed - successful management of the illness is reliant on the right diagnosis. Getting an assessment with an expert in the field.

Hirschfield, RM et al (2003)

How is Bipolar Disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosing Bipolar requires input from a psychiatrist who is experienced in the illness – the symptoms are often very similar to other mental health conditions, such as depression or ADHD, and yet, to be effective, treatment has to be tailored to the type of Bipolar you have – so making sure your diagnosis is accurate is the most important step.

the average number of misdiagnoses before correctly diagnosing Bipolar

What to expect from your Bipolar assessment

A Clinical Partners psychiatric assessment for Bipolar will include the following elements:

  1. Initial Assessment
    The psychiatrist will carry out a full psychiatric history – asking you about symptoms, family history and previous treatments.
  2. Medical history
    The psychiatrist may suggest physical health tests, such as thyroid functioning, as some thyroid problems can cause mood swings mimicking Bipolar.
  3. Report and treatment plan
    You will receive a full and detailed report, including a treatment plan with recommendations. These may include medication and talking therapies. It may also recommend further testing if the Psychiatrist suspects that you may have another mental health condition, such as ADHD. This will be explained to you in the appointment.

Seeing a psychiatrist who didn’t oversimplify my problems or make me feel as if they were trivial was brilliant. I definitely got my money’s worth.

Abi, Birmingham

Tips for your psychiatric assessment

There is a lot to get through in your psychiatric assessment and understandably you might feel a bit nervous about what to expect. Don’t worry – this is completely normal and something your doctor will be expecting.

Here are some tips from our psychiatrists about how to get the most out of your psychiatric assessment:

  • Draw a timeline: It can be really helpful to map out your experiences and plot when you have felt different symptoms. You can add major life events and periods of ill health on this timeline.
  • Bring a list of medications: Again, your doctor will ask you what medications you have tried before and how they worked – it’s often difficult to remember all the details so if you can, make a note of these.
  • Bring any GP letters or previous psychiatric reports: Your psychiatrist needs to know as much about your health as possible, including previous assessments or treatments. Even if you are looking for a second opinion, allowing your psychiatrist to see what other clinicians think will help them piece together a complete picture.
  • List any allergies: This is especially important if you think medication might be an issue
  • Make a note of any questions you have: Your psychiatrist will be able to answer any questions you have about ongoing care and it’s often hard to remember these in the sessions
  • Write a letter: Some people find it really hard to know where to start so think about writing a letter to your psychiatrist that you give them on the day, which explains how you feel and maybe a bit about what has happened in your life. This can be a great place to start your appointment.

Your Psychiatrist may advise you to have a brief 30 minute follow-ups within a month or so from the start of treatment. This is important as the medications should be reviewed and adjusted – based on your response and tolerance.
Dr Simon Surguladze
MD, PhD, DSc

Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Surguladze is a psychiatrist with over 30 years of clinical and academic experience in various areas of mental health.


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