Make Sure Your Diagnosis is Correct: Other Illnesses Can Mimic the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

As some may have already realized, there are some illnesses, diseases, and disorders that seem to present similar symptoms to bipolar disorder. It is crucial to know whether your diagnosis is the correct one. Bipolar disorder is already a difficult illness to diagnose as there currently isn’t a definite medical test that can be done to identify it. It is estimated that it can take up to five years or more to receive an accurate diagnosis. It is in the patient’s best interest to explore any and all possibilities.

Before diagnosing yourself or before you receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a licensed professional, make sure you and your doctor have explored all other possible causes for these symptoms. Most physicians tend to (or should) order and run a series of tests such as blood tests that will check for any imbalances or abnormalities , a sleep study to rule out any sleep disorders, and in some cases, maybe even an x-ray, MRI, or CAT scan.

Photo By: piyaphantawong

Photo By: piyaphantawong

Some other health conditions that can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

Lupus:  “Lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which the body creates antibodies against its own tissues. Serious damage can be caused throughout the body – including the brain and central nervous system (Cleveland, 2001).”

Lyme Disease: “Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection caused by a tick bite. In the late stages, it has neurological manifestations that may cause the symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as depression, dementia, psychosis and bipolar disorder (Fallon et al, 1995).”

Epilepsy: “Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain caused by sudden, large discharges of electrical impulses from brain cells. This disturbance affects the brain’s normal functions and produces changes in a person’s movement, behavior or consciousness (Epilepsy Foundation).”

Brain Tumor/Head Trauma: “As with any disorder or disease that directly affects the central nervous system, a tumor or head trauma can compromise emotional stability.”

Multiple Sclerosis: “MS is a disease that damages the white matter of the brain. In that the central nervous system controls much of the body’s functioning, this disease has a large array of symptoms. It can cause frequent changes in emotional state and a bipolar-type syndrome (Jones, 2003).”

Neurosyphilis: “This is an untreated form of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis that has gone to the brain. It can cause dementia and other psychiatric disturbances (Zerr, June 2001).”

Sodium Imbalance: “An imbalance of salt in the body, whether hyponatremia (too little) or hypernatremia (too much), counts irritability, confusion and depression among its symptoms (McLaughlin, September 2001).”

Hormone Imbalances:

“Hormonal imbalance is caused when there are fluctuations in the amount of hormones the body produces, causing dramatic shifts in bodily and neurological functions. Symptoms for hormonal imbalance are varied, but wide-reaching.

Common symptoms associated with a hormone imbalance include:

  • Dry Skin
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety/Irritibility
  • Loss in libido
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Mood Swings
  • Infertility (Seen in illnesses such as PCOS in women)
  • Excessive Hair Growth (Seen in illnesses such as PCOS in women)”

Thyroid Disorder: “The thyroid is an endocrine gland that produces thyroid hormone, which controls the processes that allow the body to transform food into energy and to rebuild cells. If the thyroid produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), nervousness is a resulting symptom. Hypothyroidism (too little) causes extreme fatigue (Harrison, 2001).”  Be sure to ask your physician to check your thyroid levels!

Sleep Disorders: states, “Everyone experiences occasional sleeping problems, but how can you tell whether your sleeping problem is just a minor, passing annoyance or a sign of a more serious sleep disorder or underlying medical condition?

Start by scrutinizing your symptoms, looking especially for the telltale daytime signs of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, you may be dealing with a sleep disorder.

Is it a sleep disorder?

Do you. . .

  • feel irritable or sleepy during the day?
  • have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television or reading?
  • fall asleep or feel very tired while driving?
  • have difficulty concentrating?
  • often get told by others that you look tired?
  • react slowly?
  • have trouble controlling your emotions?
  • feel like you have to take a nap almost every day?
  • require caffeinated beverages to keep yourself going?

If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, you may have a sleep disorder.”

This is where your doctor may want to set up a sleep study to test for any signs of sleeping disorders.

For more information please refer to:


Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome :

According to WebMD, “Cushing syndrome occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol for a long time. The most common cause of Cushing syndrome, sometimes called hypercortisolism, is the use of oral corticosteroid medication. The condition can also occur when your body makes too much cortisol.

Too much cortisol can produce some of the hallmark signs of Cushing syndrome — a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on your skin. Cushing syndrome can also result in high blood pressure, bone loss and, on occasion, diabetes”  If you suspect that you may have cushing’s disease, ask your doctor to check your cortisol levels. It is also a good idea to ask your physician to run some tests on your adrenal glands as well if possible.


There are many other illnesses that could also possibly mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder as well. It never hurts to look into and research other possibilities. Definitely bring any and all concerns you may have up with your doctor.

Read more on illnesses that can mimic symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses here:



“Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder: Ruling Out Other Physical Conditions.” Bipolar Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

“What Are the Treatments for Hormone Imbalance?” eHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

“Cleveland, M. (2001, August). “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.” HealthAnswers, Inc.

“Sleep Disorders and Sleeping Problems: Symptoms, Treatment, and Help.” Helpguide helps you help yourself and others. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

“Cushing syndrome –” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County

Evans, D. L. (2000). Bipolar disorder: Diagnostic challenges and treatment considerations. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 61, 26-31.

Fallon, B.A., Schwartzberg, M., Bransfield, R., Zimmerman, B., Scotti, A., Webber, M., & Liebowitz, M. (1995). Late-stage neuropsychiatric lyme borreliosis differential diagnosis and treatment. Psychosomatics, 36, 295-300.

Jones, Paul (2003). Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms.”



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  3. Very informative information I have struggled with Lupus for the last 19 years and took 6 years to get a definite diagnosis to find out that I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis as well which the the treatments are fairly the same for both I have done a tremendous amount of research and learned a lot from a multitude of Physician and asking a lot of questions and have undergone a lot of procedures as well as a hip replacement at 35 years old . I have had a lot ups and down with my own Bipolar disorder as well as depression. I always like to share the information that have been presented to me by a medical professional and let readers know that there is so much hope and with new treatments I can say I have not had a major flare up in the last 10 month and be positive you can still live a normal life but you must and always be honest with your Doctor so they can treat you properly and give you a correct diagnosis.
    With the help from you will always prevail and no one knows your body better than yourself thanks for the blog today very informative will definitely pass it along. I love your blog and thank you for following me as well

    • Thank you and thanks for sharing your story with us here. It is inspiring to realize that things can get better in time. I’m happy you’re doing much better lately and I hope everything continues to go smoothly for you 🙂

    • Just make sure that hip replacement wasn’t due to any steroid side fx. Steroids can cause hip necrosis.
      live ur best life now girlfriend. Xx

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