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The Effect of PTSD When You Have Bipolar Disorder

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Updated April 28, 2014

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Within the general population, approximately 4% of the population will have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. What is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is considered a mood disorder. There are two types of bipolar disorders, described as bipolar I and bipolar II.

In bipolar I disorder, a person has experienced one or more manic episodes. In most cases of bipolar I, episodes of major depression are a central aspect of the overall course of the illness.

In bipolar II disorder, hypomanic episodes have been experienced but not manic episodes. In addition, to be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, a person needs to have also experienced a major depressive episode.

Bipolar disorder can have a major impact on your life, and it can also increase risk that you develop other disorders. In fact, people with bipolar disorder have been found to be at high risk for developing a number of other mental health disorders. One such disorder that co-occurs with bipolar disorder at high rates is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Relationship between Bipolar Disorder and PTSD

Studies have found that anywhere between 11% to 39% of bipolar patients also meet criteria for PTSD. It is not entirely surprising that high rates of PTSD are found among people with bipolar disorder, as many people with bipolar also have a history of traumatic exposure. Traumatic exposure may be more likely to occur during a manic episode when a person with bipolar disorder is more likely to make risky or impulsive decisions. In addition to being a risk factor for the development of PTSD, traumatic exposure during childhood, such as childhood physical or sexual abuse, may also be risk factor for the development of bipolar disorder.

The Effect of PTSD Among People with Bipolar Disorder

Having PTSD along with bipolar disorder can have a major negative impact on your life. People with PTSD and bipolar disorder appear to have more problems across a number of different areas in their lives. For example, PTSD has been found to reduce quality of life among people with bipolar disorder. It has also been found to make the bipolar disorder worsen, resulting in more rapid cycling and increased risk for suicide attempts. Finally, PTSD has also been found to be associated with greater levels of depression among people with bipolar disorder.

Finding the Help You Need

If you have PTSD and bipolar disorder, it is very important to take steps to manage both conditions. There are a number of healthy coping strategies for managing your symptoms of bipolar disorder and PTSD. There are also a number of effective treatments for bipolar disorder and PTSD. There are websites that can help you find treatment providers in your area who specialize in PTSD and/or bipolar disorder. You can also learn more about the symptoms and treatment for bipolar disorder from the About.com site for bipolar disorder.

Sources:

Assion, H., Brune, N., Schmidt, N., et al. (2009). Trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder in bipolar disorder. Social Psychiatry and Epidemiology, 44, 1041-1049.

Brown, G.R., McBride, L., Bauer, M.S., & Williford, W.O. (2005). Cooperative Studies Program 430 Study Team, 2005. Impact of childhood abuse on the course of bipolar disorder: A replication study in U.S. veterans. Journal of Affective Disorders, 89, 57-67.

Goldberg, J.F., & Garno, J.L. (2005). Development of posttraumatic stress disorder in adult bipolar patients with histories of severe childhood abuse. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 39, 595-601

Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P.A., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K.R., Walters, E.E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593-602.

Merikangas, K.R., Akiskal, H.S., Angst, J., et al. (2007). Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64, 543-552

Quarantini, L.C., Mirana-Scippa, A., Nery-Fernandes, F., et al. (2010). The impact of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder on bipolar disorder patients. Journal of Affective Disorders, 123, 71-76.

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