Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

DSM Criteria

Diagnosis of Bipolar
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There are no specific criteria for a doctor to use when he or she may be considering diagnosing you with bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS).

Bipolar disorder NOS is more of a catch-all category then an actual type of this disorder. Your doctor will use this diagnosis to document that you have symptoms of bipolar disorder, but your symptoms do not meet the requirements for a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder, bipolar 2 disorder or cyclothymic disorder.

If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder not otherwise specified, you are likely to be re-evaluated for one of the other types of bipolar disorder when you have another episode.

The DSM gives a few examples for when you may be given this diagnosis:

  1. You are having symptoms of mania and depression but the episodes are too short to qualify as an actual episode.
  2. You’ve had many episodes of hypomania, but you’ve not had a depressive episode.
  3. You are having a manic or mixed episode but you were previously diagnosed with a psychotic disorder or schizophrenia.
  4. You’ve had symptoms of hypomania and depression, but they don’t last long enough to qualify as cyclothymic disorder.
  5. It looks like you have bipolar disorder but your doctor thinks your symptoms might be caused by drugs, alcohol or a general medical condition (see Ruling Out Other Physical Conditions).

As noted above, these criteria have been established through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

It is the primary system used to classify and diagnose all mental disorders.

As per this formal classification system, bipolar disorder is a clinical disorder within the category of mood disorders. The manual recognizes four types of bipolar disorder. Each specific type of bipolar disorder is distinguished by the others through the nature of episodes experienced.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR).

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