If you think that you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, the next step is finding a doctor who can help you. Here's how.
A doctor makes the diagnosis of bipolar disorder based on information an individual provides, such as symptoms they have experienced. It is important to tell the doctor about all the moods you experience.
What kind of doctor can help treat bipolar disorder?
A doctor skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar and other mental health disorders may be a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who is a specialist in dealing with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders. Like all medical doctors, he or she can prescribe medication. A psychiatrist may or may not provide non-medical therapies such as "talk therapy." In diseases such as bipolar disorder, it is often the case that the formal diagnosis and treatment plan will be made by a psychiatrist so that medication can be prescribed.
Psychoanalyst: One who practices psychoanalysis, a therapy which attempts to overcome repression and release energy for healthy, normal living. This therapy usually entails free association and dream analysis conducted over long periods of time in order to get to the sources of unconscious impulses.
Psychologist: A health care professional with an advanced academic degree called a PhD (doctor of philosophy--in this case "philosophy" means course of study), who deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders. A psychologist uses non-medical therapies such as talk therapy, cognitive therapy, or coaching in the treatment of bipolar disorder. When further medical attention or prescription medication is required, a psychologist will refer a patient to a psychiatrist.
You will want to choose a specialist who is experienced and with whom you feel comfortable. You may consult with more than one doctor before deciding on the specialist who is right for you.
Your primary care or family doctor can often recommend a mental health specialist experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder.