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Can You Have Bipolar Disorder and an Anxiety Disorder at the Same Time?

What does it mean to have bipolar or an anxiety disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental condition that causes extreme shifts in mood. A person’s moods can change very quickly, and they may experience everything from high highs to low lows.

These shifts in mood can cause major changes in their energy and activity levels. The shifts can also interfere with their quality of life and daily activities.

Everyone experiences some  anxiety from time to time, such as before taking a test or making a big decision. However, some people have anxiety disorders that cause them to experience more than short-term worries.

Anxiety disorders aren’t limited to specific life events and may worsen over time. Sometimes people with anxiety disorders have worries so severe that they interfere with their ability to carry out their everyday activities.

The various types of anxiety disorders include:

  1. generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  2. social anxiety disorder

  3. panic disorder

What’s the connection between bipolar and anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders often occur alongside other mental health conditions, such as:

  1. depression

  2. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  3. bipolar disorder

  4. substance use disorder

Most people with bipolar disorder have a coexisting mental health condition of some sort.

According to a 2011 survey anxiety disorder is the most prevalent one of these. According to a 2019 literature review, at least half of people with bipolar disorder will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

A 2018 study found that anxiety disorder rates among people with bipolar disorder are3 to 7 times higher than anxiety disorder rates among the general population.

Both conditions are treatable, but they’re long-term conditions that can sometimes be challenging to live with.

How are bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder similar?

Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be associated with an anxiety disorder. For that reason, it’s not always easy to separate an anxiety disorder diagnosis from a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

When an anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder co-occur, symptoms may worsen. According to experts, the impact of having both disorders may include:

  1. having an increased number of mood episodes

  2. seeing an increased rate of first episodes that are depressive episodes

  3. having an increased rate of episodes with mixed features (which are characterized by simultaneous symptoms of mania and depression)

  4. having an increased rate of rapid cycling (in rapid cycling, a person has at least four mood episodes a year)

  5. seeing an increase in the frequency and severity of mood episodes

  6. undergoing longer periods of untreated illness

  7. undergoing longer periods of time between remission

  8. having increased suicidal thoughts and making plans to die by suicide

  9. having an increased risk of substance use disorder

  10. experiencing an increase in severe negative events after taking medication

  11. experiencing an increased use of healthcare

  12. experiencing increased amounts of psychological distress

  13. having a poorer response to treatment

  14. having a more difficult time adhering to a treatment plan

  15. experiencing a decrease in functioning and quality of life

What are some challenges associated with these conditions?

Both conditions can negatively affect a person’s quality of life and functioning.

People with both conditions have an increased chance of:

  1. manic episodes triggered by insomnia  (insomnia is a symptom of the anxiety disorder)

  2. substance misuse

  3. suicidal thoughts and behaviors

How can a person move forward with both conditions?

Living with bipolar disorder is tough, but it can be even more challenging if you’re also living with an anxiety disorder. While these are lifelong conditions, it’s possible to treat both and increase your quality of life.

Once you begin treatment, make sure to communicate regularly with your healthcare providers.

Let them know if your medication or therapy seems less effective than usual or is causing any unpleasant or severe side effects.

Your healthcare team will help you find and adhere to an effective treatment plan that works best for you.

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