Bipolar 1 Disorder — Incorrectly Diagnosed?


While a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder can be reached from a variety of episodes, such as mixed episodes, with or without the depressive factor, the only criterion which is currently required for such a diagnosis is a single manic episode. Given that there is already a great deal of controversy surrounding bipolar conditions in general, this fact makes it even more controversial.

While many in the mental health field express strong doubts about the purported prevalence of bipolar disorders, there are a number of factors which exacerbate the problem. One is that bipolar disorder is a current «trend» in diagnoses, making it one of the first conclusions many mental health practitioners come to without thoroughly investigating the patient’s symptoms and patterns.

Possible Mislabeling Of Illness

Another equally frustrating factor in mis-diagnosis is that of mislabeling something as a mental illness when in fact it is nothing more than behavior which is considered acceptable in one locale but not in another. A person who brings his or her cultural background differences to a different locale can wrongfully be labeled as having a mental illness; similarly, this can also occur from misunderstanding of what is and is not age-appropriate behavior in children.

The lack of appropriate diagnostic criteria for the bipolar 1 disorder should be a point of caution to both mental health practitioners and prospective patients alike. The fact that many in the medical community are wary of this diagnosis should serve as even more of a caution.

What is a manic episode, or a more prolonged manic state? To define it in the clearest terms, it is characterized by being extremely «up,» or «hyper.» The extreme may be that of joy or anger, for example, which is entirely disproportionate and inappropriate for one’s current circumstances.

When in a manic state or episode, the person may have a sense of self-grandiosity, impulsiveness, or inappropriate schemes for self-importance. The manic state is also often characterized by a much lesser than normal need for sleep, and a much lesser than normal appetite.

Extreme Swings

The key word in all of these symptoms is «extreme»— extremes which are not appropriate to one’s situation. Too frequently this concept is overlooked, leading to a misdiagnosis based on nothing more than unusual reactions to one’s everyday environment, or mood swings which are symptomatic of different mental conditions altogether.

This is the most important reason for the mental health practitioner to take a complete case history of his or her prospective patient before attempting to reach any definite conclusions about whether the person has this condition.


In general, manic episodes in bipolar disorder are mirrored by a similar extreme in the opposite form of depressive episodes; however, the occurrence of depressive episodes is currently not required for a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder.

It is interesting to note that many in the medical community at large are casting doubts on this condition. As the polarized symptoms are not necessary for a claim of bipolar 1 disorder, the existence of bipolar 1 disorder as a legitimate condition in itself is gaining a great deal of skepticism.

Flor Serquina