What to Do If You’ve Just Been Diagnosed as Bipolar

Being diagnosed as bipolar is a scary thing. It can happen in a number of ways, but if you’re like most of us, you probably didn’t know what was wrong for a long time, then you were misdiagnosed and then sometime later, you got the moniker of “bipolar”. Few of us go right from episode to bipolar diagnosis.

But regardless of how you got here, what do you do next?

What Happens When Your Doctor Tells You You’re Bipolar

Likely you’ll be stunned. Or upset. Or angry. Or something. You’ve just been handed a big bit of news, so an emotional reaction is to be expected. That’s OK. Try to listen to what your doctor has to say (it helps to have someone with you), go home and think about it for a while. You don’t have to do anything that moment.*

What Happens When You Get Home

Once the bipolar diagnosis hits home for you, you’ll probably grieve. Being diagnosed with bipolar is the end of something. It is also the start of something else, but as when most things end, we tend to grieve. This is OK too. No one expects you to get a life-altering diagnosis and then return about your normal daily routine. Give yourself some time and space.

What Happens Next

After the initial shock wears off and you feel a little more even-keeled, the real work begins: your education. Now you have to learn. You have to learn about bipolar disorder, you have to learn about yourself, you have to learn about bipolar treatments. There’s a lot to know. Break it down into bite-sized chunks. Start with the basics. Don’t get overwhelmed. There is time.

And Get Help. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to do alone. Lean on the people that love you. They can help you with research. They will want to know what’s wrong and how they can help. You can learn together.

The Doctor’s Appointment After the Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Once you’ve digested a bit, you’ll probably have questions – and if you don’t, you should have.


Here are some things to think about asking your doctor about bipolar disorder:

  1. How did you determine I am bipolar?
  2. What specific symptoms lead you to believe I am bipolar?
  3. What can you tell me about my disorder? What type of bipolar is it?
  4. Is there any other possible diagnosis?
  5. Are there any symptoms I’ve reported that don’t fall into a bipolar diagnosis?

Why do you care about that stuff? Because doctors aren’t always right. And regardless as to whether the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is accurate, it helps you to know specifically what the bipolar really explains. If you pull out all your hair, you might still be bipolar, but that diagnosis alone might not explain the hair-pulling.

And then, of course, you’ll want to know:

  1. What are my bipolar treatment options?
  2. What else besides medication can I do?
  3. What resources do you recommend?

It depends on your doctor, but they may not give you “options” unless you ask. They may give you the one thing they think you should do and not mention the rest. You might be interested in knowing more than one thing, however, so you can be more involved in yourbipolar treatment decisions. There are a lot of options in front of you, make sure you hear about them. (5 Depression / Bipolar Treatments You Might Not Know About)

By now, you are likely overwhelmed again. That’s OK. It happens. This is one of the hardest parts. Really. Just try to listen and write down the information if you can, so you can refer to it later. It can be hard to remember everything, believe me.

And you still don’t have to make a decision. Again, take your time. Don’t let anyone pressure you into treatment you don’t want. Your doctor doesn’t have to take the pills – you do. You should feel comfortable before you head down a road.

Doesn’t This Seem Like a Slow Way to Get Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

If this all seems a little protracted, well, maybe it is; I don’t know. What I do know is thatbipolar diagnosis and treatment is serious business and something you need to think clearly about, and that clarity takes time. You might have to skip ahead a few steps and get into treatment immediately. That’s OK. But the above questions still should be asked, even if you have to do it down the line.