Testing for Bipolar disorder is a little more complicated than a simple survey, but self-help is important and I’d like to share this Bipolar self-test from the Black Dog Institute. Call the Mood Swings Questionnaire (MSQ) it serves the purpose of a screening tool. In psychology we use a screening tool to make it easier to see if we should embark on a more comprehensive assessment of a health condition like bipolar or depression. This online version can be used easily and if you score 22 or more, please print this off and bring it into your psychologist or GP.
I’m keen for my clients to be exploring self-help or self-analysis because it is a healthy part of learning about your health. By this stage you will possibly have scored yourself and here are some things to think about before you close that webpage thinking you have nothing wrong, or you panic and thing you are going crazy and are definitely bipolar. Firstly I need to explain what a screening questionnaire means!
When someone answers a screening questionnaire and they fall a little below the cut-off we might ask further questions. For example if you were very depressed on the day you filled in this questionnaire you may under report manic symptoms, so recalling an actual life event might be a more accurate way to assess things. On the other hand a higher score might because of an emotional event that occurred recently like winning a prize, getting into a university course or falling in love. Emotional events that are positive would sway things into the “bipolar” category without you being bipolar.
Just to make things more complicated, there are personality variables that might lead you and others to think your bipolar. Some people are emotional, outspoken and have lots of family with similar traits. In this case social learning is involved. Along this same idea, some people may have a “manic defence” or speed up when challenged. The bipolar symptoms may occur in this situation due an adrenaline release. Likewise there are many prescription and illicit substances that can simulate bipolar symptoms. For this reason we may decide to assess mood over a few sessions rather than in one day. If you had an argument with your partner prior to a session you may appear very emotional, and the next session be completely different.
I hope this helps and I’m available to discuss this further with you if you are concerned about yourself or your loved one. Feel free to book one session and many clients use private health for a first session. If it seems likely you have bipolar you may like to gain a mental health plan and involve your GP. It is really important to not panic about it before you see someone else. It is a common thing to feel like you are bipolar when you have lots going on!