The Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale

Used by permission of Dr. Nassir Ghaemi
and developer Dr. Ron Pies

The BSDS is a test for subtle versions of bipolar disorder. Before you start this test, you should know that it will not give you a “yes or no” answer as to whether you have bipolar disorder. See the scoring essay for more details about that. There is another test, called the MDQ, that you may run into which gives a “yes or no” answer, but is thus capable of giving a “wrong” answer. In fact, both of these tests have a serious problem with potential “false positives.”

If you are having some doubts about “how bipolar am I?”, continue your education (on this site, for example) about Bipolar II and less prominent versions of bipolar disorder. Then if you can, see a mental health professional, either a skilled therapist like an MSW, or Ph.D. psychologist, or a psychiatrist. If she/he gives you a diagnostic opinion that differs from your self-educated impression, you can discuss the differences in your points of view. If the difference is not resolved, you could try to hunt around for a second opinion.

Somewhere in that process you might take this “test” for bipolar disorder.  It is similar to another well-known “test” called the MDQ (Mood Disorders Questionnaire), maybe just slightly better for detecting subtle bipolarity — which is why I’m posting it here instead of the MDQ. (Besides, the MDQ was copyrighted, for unclear reasons).  However,  make sure to read very carefully about scoring the BSDS after you take it.

Finally, if you would like a paper-and-pencil version of this test which you can easily take to your doctor; which also includes a paper-and-pencil summary of the “soft signs” of bipolar disorder, then use this version..

Here is the test. Read the following paragraph all the way through first, then follow the instructions which appear below it.

Some individuals noticed that their mood and/or energy levels shift drastically from time to time ______ . These individuals notice that, at times, they are moody and/or energy level is very low, and at other times, and very high______.

During their “low” phases, these individuals often feel a lack of energy, a need to stay in bed or get extra sleep, and little or no motivation to do things they need to do______ .
They often put on weight during these periods______ . During their low phases, these individuals often feel “blue,” sad all the time, or depressed______ .

Sometimes, during the low phases, they feel helpless or even suicidal _____ . Their ability to function at work or socially is impaired ______ . Typically, the low phases last for a few weeks, but sometimes they last only a few days ______ . Individuals with this type of pattern may experience a period of “normal” mood in between mood swings,
during which their mood and energy level feels “right” and their ability to function is not disturbed ______ . They may then noticed they marked shift or “switch” in the way they feel ______ . Their energy increases above what is normal for them, and they often get many things done they would not ordinarily be able to do ______ . Sometimes during those “high” periods, these individuals feel as if they had too much energy or feel “hyper” ______ . Some individuals, during these high periods, may feel irritable, “on edge,” or aggressive ______.

Some individuals, during the high periods, take on too many activities at once ______. During the high periods, some individuals may spend money in ways that cause them trouble______ .They may be more talkative, outgoing or sexual during these periods ______ . Sometimes, their behavior during the high periods seems strange or annoying to others ______ . Sometimes, these individuals get into difficulty with co-workers or police during these high periods ______ .
Sometimes, they increase their alcohol or nonprescription drug use during the high periods ______ .

After you have read this passage, please decide which of the following is most accurate:

  • this story fits me very well, or almost perfectly
  • this story fits me fairly well
  • this story fits me to some degree, but not in most respects
  • this story doesn’t really describe me at all

Now please go back and put a check after each sentence in the paragraph above that accurately describes you.  Print this page, or just keep track of your “checks” on a blank page). When you are done, total the number of check marks.

Click here to score your test.