Bipolar Disorder & Panic Disorder Comorbidity

Bipolar Disorder & Panic Disorder Comorbidity


Bipolar disorder and panic disorder are two common mental health illnesses that can cause devastating impairment and interference with daily life. But did you know there is a connection between bipolar disorder and panic disorder? Studies have shown that up to 21 percent of people with bipolar disorder will also develop some form of anxiety disorder at some point.

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unexpected and recurring periods of intense fear or anxiety. These episodes, which are also known as “panic attacks,” can last for several minutes or hours and are often accompanied by physical symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and dizziness.

People with panic disorder often live in fear of having another panic attack and often go to great lengths to avoid situations or places where they might experience one.

What is bipolar disorder (BD)?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of abnormally high energy levels and moods (known as manic episodes) followed by periods of depression. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be mild to severe and can have a major impact on a person’s ability to function at work, during school, and in social situations.

The link between panic disorder and bipolar disorder

The link between the two disorders is not fully understood, but experts believe that several factors may be involved.

One theory is that panic disorder and bipolar disorder share some common vulnerabilities or risk factors, such as genetics and environmental stress. This means that people who are predisposed to one disorder are also likely to develop the other.

Another theory is that bipolar disorders may introduce a fear factor into a person’s life that can trigger panic attacks. For example, people with bipolar disorder may worry that they will lose control during a manic episode, and this fear can lead to panic attacks.

Another possible explanation is that the medications used to treat bipolar disorder may also contribute to the development of panic disorder. Some of the antidepressant medications used to stabilize moods in people with bipolar disorder can have the side effect of causing anxiety or triggering panic attacks.

Regardless of the cause of the connection, it is important to be aware of the link between bipolar disorder and panic disorder so that you can get the help you need if you develop either condition.

The impact of comorbid bipolar disorder and panic disorder

People who have comorbid bipolar disorder and panic disorder often experience more severe symptoms, increased chronicity, poor treatment outcomes, and greater impairment than people who only have one of the disorders. In addition, people with comorbidity are more likely to attempt suicide and are at a higher risk for substance abuse.

If you have comorbid bipolar disorder and panic disorder, it is crucial to get treatment for both conditions concurrently. While there is no cure for either disorder, there are treatments that can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. A combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most effective treatment approach.

Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle modalities and self-care practices to help you better manage your symptoms and complement your treatment. These may include exercise, relaxation techniques, stress management, sleep hygiene, and sticking to a healthy diet.

The takeaway

A dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and panic disorder is not uncommon. The two conditions share some common risk factors, and when they occur together, they can have a major impact on a person’s overall quality of life.

If you think you may have bipolar disorder or panic disorder, it’s vital to consult a mental health professional for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve treatment outcomes and promote a better quality of life.

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