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Am I Bipolar, or Is it Something Else?

If you are experiencing emotional highs and lows, are having difficulty concentrating, can’t stop those racing thoughts, are vulnerable to rages, sometimes feel like you can do anything-literally, and/or fall into the throes of depression, you may have bipolar-then, then again, you may not. There are many conditions that can trigger some of these experiences. Often, finding the correct diagnosis can be quite an effort. However, it is important to know what is behind your mood swings in order to find the most appropriate treatment.  Always get a full medical checkup to rule out any medical conditions before beginning treatment for a Mental Disorder.

If you are having some mood swings, and you don’t know why; first, rule out the following:

  •  Medical Causes of Mood Changes: If you do not have a history of dramatic mood changes that disrupt your life, but have a sudden onset of severe mood changes, go to your medical doctor for a medical checkup and rule out. You may have a medical condition that needs attention. Some examples include (but are not limited to) Pre- Menstrual syndrome (PMS), perimenopause, or menopause; some forms of diabetes; circumstantially induced loss of sleep (perhaps due to a medical condition), some types of dementias, some types of neurological disorders, and Alzheimer’s can also cause mood swings. (This is a very limited list of examples) Note: in many cases, an individual who is experiencing mood swings as a result of a medical condition may believe that he or she has bipolar, mood swings often seem severe in comparison to an individual’s “normal”, yet really, the extreme level of mood swings are usually much more severe in actual bipolar disorder.
  •  Drug or Alcohol Abuse/Overuse: This is a tricky one (and this is both a medical condition and a mental health condition); you will want to talk to your therapist to determine if your over use of a substance is causing severe mood swings, if you inadvertently began to “self medicate” with a primary undiagnosed condition of bipolar, or if, over many years of using, you developed bipolar in addition to an addiction to a substance.
  • Complicated Grief: If you have experienced a severe loss and have not really “processed” this loss, you may be experiencing complicated grief.  Some people are unconsciously very afraid to feel the pain of losing someone or a life situation that they are very, very attached to.  In cases like this, a person will “move on” with their life, as if the loss event did not occur, yet will experience bouts of unexplainable depression, then “bounce back” into a high state of functionality. The individual experiencing these mood swings may not be able to connect the depression with the loss. If you fall into a deep depression and swing back into a temporary “high”, with no actual mania and you did not have bipolar before you may want your psychotherapy to focus on resolving your grief.
  •  Anxiety Disorders: Some people who experience extreme anxiety and racing thoughts, fear and overwhelm, may wonder if they are bipolar. A person can have a primary diagnosis of bipolar with secondary symptoms. It is not unusual to have both bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder. The key is ruling out extreme and severe mood swings. There is a difference between having mood swings, and having such severe mood swings that they disrupt your life.


If you believe that you have bipolar, and have not been properly diagnosed consider taking the Bipolar Screening Quiz Found here at Go to:


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Dr. Barbara Bachmeier

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APA Reference
Bachmeier, D. (2015). Misdiagnosed?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Feb 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2015
Published on All rights reserved.