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Bipolar Disorder - When To Call a Doctor

Call 911, the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or other emergency services right away if:

  • You or someone you know is thinking seriously of committing suicide or has recently tried to commit suicide. Serious signs include these thoughts:
    • You have decided how to kill yourself, such as with a weapon or medicines.
    • You have set a time and place to do it.
    • You think there is no other way to solve the problem or end the pain.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Call a doctor right away if:

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Episodes With Mixed Features

Mixed features refers to the presence of high and low symptoms occurring at the same time, or as part of a single episode, in people experiencing an episode of mania or depression. In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. A person with mixed features experiences symptoms of both mood "poles" -- mania and depression -- simultaneously or in rapid sequence. 

Read the Bipolar Episodes With Mixed Features article > >

  • You hear voices.
  • You have been thinking about death or suicide a lot, but you do not have a plan to commit suicide.
  • You are worried that your feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide aren't going away.

Seek care soon if:

  • You have symptoms of depression, such as:
    • Feeling sad or hopeless.
    • Not enjoying anything.
    • Having trouble with sleep.
    • Feeling guilty.
    • Feeling anxious or worried.
  • You have been treated for depression for more than 3 weeks, but you aren't getting better.

Who to see

Bipolar disorder is complex and hard to diagnose, because it has many phases and symptoms. Sometimes it is misdiagnosed as only depression, because people are more likely to seek treatment during a period of depression.

After you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you'll need to keep a long-term relationship with your doctor or therapist. It can help you make sure that your treatment is consistent and that your medicines can be adjusted as needed.

Although other health professionals can diagnose bipolar disorder, you will probably be referred to a psychiatrist who specializes in treating such disorders. He or she can prescribe medicines and provide counseling. Other health professionals who can diagnose bipolar disorder include:

Counseling can help you deal with mood changes and the impact bipolar disorder can have on your work and family relationships. In addition to psychiatrists, others who can provide counseling include:

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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