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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

What Is the Bipolar Spectrum?

The bipolar spectrum is a term used to refer to conditions of many people with depression, substance abuse, and a wide range of other psychiatric conditions who also have some symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although they have these similar symptoms, they are not diagnosed with bipolar disorder as it is commonly defined. Some psychiatrists find the concept useful. But since it has not been rigorously studied it hasn't been widely adopted.

Read the What Is the Bipolar Spectrum? 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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 03, 2013
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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