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Medical Disorders with Bipolar Symptoms

There are a number of physical disorders that can mimic the symptoms of bipolar. It is only after these disorders have been ruled out that a diagnosis of bipolar can be accurately made. Some of these disorders often occur along with bipolar and can mask symptoms making diagnosis and treatment more difficult. Some disorders with symptoms similar to those found in individuals with bipolar are discussed below...

Thyroid Disorders:

Overactivity of the thyroid gland is called hyperthyroidism; underactivity is referred to as hypothyroidism. Ten percent of patients diagnosed with depression suffer from thyroid dysfunction, and some individuals suffering from fluctuating thyroid function have symptoms very similar to those seen in bipolar disorder.


"Mono" is an infection of the lymphatic system and the symptoms of this disorder often include fatigue, loss of energy, unexplained aches and pains, and changes in sleep and mood. Mono can be extremely difficult to recover from, and on good days the patient may attempt to make up for lost time. This swing from seeming depression into seeming hypomania could be mistaken for cyclothymia or bipolar 2 disorder.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:

This is a debilitating disorder of unknown origin. Some sort of virus or infection of the nervous system is the suspected cause. Symptoms are often very similar to those of depression and include irritability, extreme fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, and changes in sleep and mood.

Multiple Sclerosis:

MS is a progressive disease of the nervous system characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, the tissue that surrounds and protects the spinal cord and nerves. Early symptoms of this disease include fatigue, irritability, shaky movements, sudden muscle weakness, sleep disturbance and mood swings. The medication used to treat MS can also cause symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder.


Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by infection with one of several hepatitis viruses or can be a side effect of other diseases. Because the liver is the body's center for eliminating toxic substances, all sorts of symptoms occur when it is not working properly. People suffering from hepatitis can suffer from mood swings that are generally in the direction of depression but some patients experience grandiose thinking, aggression, and other symptoms that could look like mania or hypomania.


Hypoglycemia is a deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream; low blood sugar. It can cause confusion, weakness, fainting, sudden loss of energy or fatigue, and agitation. It is treated by ingesting or injecting glucose, and since the results of suddenly raising blood glucose levels can cause hyperactivity, the ups and downs in mood and energy level of a hypoglycemic person can mimic bipolar disorder. Hypoglycemia can occur as a side effect of diabetes or alone.

Cushing's Disease:

Cushing's disease can result from a tumor on the pituitary gland. A related condition, Cushing's disorder, is often caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland, or by overuse of corticosteroid medication or illegal steroids. The adrenal gland becomes overstimulated by the hormone ACTH and causes symptoms similar to bipolar, including mood swings.

Lupus erythematosus:

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the connective tissue, including the skin, organs, nervous system and brain. Symptoms include a scaly, red rash on the face, joint pain, fatigue, and mood swings. Lupus can be diagnosed via a blood test, and should be ruled out before a diagnosis of bipolar is given.


All information contained in this web site is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your medical doctor or psychiatrist.
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This Site Updated 04/09/11