Is Bipolar Disorder Connected to Anxiety and Depression?

People with bipolar disorder often report having symptoms of anxiety and depression. But are these conditions connected?

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There are a lot of similarities when it comes to the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. However, each of these conditions must be treated separately.

Therefore, it can be confusing if you were diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and are experiencing symptoms of depression. Or anxiety. Or vice versa.

Mental health is a complicated landscape and we at Bedlamite strive to bring clarity to these conditions.

Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at the symptoms for each of these conditions and determine whether or not anxiety and depression can be linked with bipolar disorder. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

Understanding Mental Health Conditions

It’s given that many mental health conditions are our brain’s natural response to certain situations. For example, everyone experiences anxiety when in a life-threatening situation. Or, it’s common for people to feel depression when their facing difficult times.

It’s when these natural responses start to effect our daily lives that they become a psychiatric disorder. ¹

For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on bipolar disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a bipolar disorder is “a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” ²

There are three different types of bipolar disorder – all of which are characterized by manic and depressive episodes. These are as follows:

  • Bipolar I Disorder – Manic episodes last either 7 days or are so severe that a person needs medical attention. These periods will be followed by a depressive episode that lasts up to two weeks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – a similar pattern of episodes as Bipolar I. However, instead of full-blown manic episodes, people with Bipolar II will experience hypomanic episodes.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) – like Bipolar II, this type will bring on hypomanic and depressive symptoms. However, these symptoms are usually much more severe, with depressive symptoms lasting up to 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents).

These types of bipolar disorder lay out the key differences in this condition in comparison to anxiety or depression. A bipolar disorder is characterized by shifts in mood (from up to down). Whereas, depression and anxiety usually only have one stable mood.

However, this still begs the question, “can people with a bipolar disorder experience anxiety and/or depression?”

What Are the Symptoms?

The best way to identify which disorder you struggle with is by looking into the symptoms you’re experiencing. In fact, in order for a medical professional to properly diagnose you, s/he will look into these symptoms.

As mentioned, many of the symptoms of these conditions are intermixed. This causes a lot of confusion among people who struggle with a mental health condition.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are separated into two categories; mania (or hyopmania) episodes and depressive episodes. It’s important to remember that in order to be diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, you must show signs of symptoms from both episodes.

Mania (Hypomania) Symptoms

  • Abnormal talkativeness
  • Distractibility
  • Euphoria (exaggerated sense of self-confidence and well-being)
  • Inability to sleep (may appear as insomnia)
  • Increased energy, activity, and/or agitation
  • Poor decision-making (i.e. taking sexual or financial risks)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Unusually upbeat

Depressive Symptoms

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Weight changes (can appear as weight loss or weight gain)

Anxiety Symptoms

Common symptoms for anxiety include: ³

  • Avoiding situations and things that cause anxiety
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Feeling a sense of impending danger (panic attacks)
  • Feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and/or tenseness
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

Depression Symptoms

Common symptoms for depression include: ⁴

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems (without physical cause)
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Fatigue (decreased energy)
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Moving or talking slowly
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Weight changes (can appear as weight loss or weight gain)

Bipolar’s Connection to Anxiety and Depression

After looking over these list of symptoms, it becomes obvious why some people confuse bipolar disorder for another mental health condition, especially depression. Still, the question remains, “can people with a bipolar disorder experience anxiety and/or depression?”

In order to answer this, we’re going to look at Bipolar in concerns with anxiety and depression separately.

Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety

There are five major types of anxiety disorders known among psychologist. These include: ⁵

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – marked by excessive anxiety for no logical reason.
  • Panic Disorder – when a person experiences “sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger.” These are better known as panic attacks. ⁶
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – when a person goes through a mental or emotional stress due to a severe psychological shock.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – fear of social situations involving large crowds or social interactions with other people. ⁷

These disorders are common mental health conditions and often associated with bipolar disorder. The reason is, the majority of people with a bipolar disorder will experience one anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

While both disorders are lifelong conditions, it’s important to note that they’re also treatable. However, it’s vital to make sure you treat these conditions separately as each condition has different treatment requirements.

Bipolar Disorder and Depression

Since people with bipolar disorder will experience depressive episodes, it’s assumed by many that there’s the potential to be diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder simultaneously.

However, it’s extremely rare that someone will encounter this dual diagnosis. The reason is people with a bipolar disorder experience episodes of depression. In other words, their depression only lingers for a certain period of time.

Whereas people who are diagnosed with depression will experience without ever going through a manic episode.

Still, it’s worth noting that people with bipolar disorder may undergo similar treatments as those with depression as the two have so many similarities.

Final Word

As you can see, it is possible to be diagnosed with both a bipolar disorder and anxiety. However, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression.

If you struggle with more than one of the anxiety symptoms mentioned in this article, we suggest consulting your mental health professional. S/he will put you on track to treating both disorders at the same time.

If you’ve been struggling with depressive symptoms, chances are you’re going through a depressive episode. Again, it’s important to talk to your mental health professional as s/he will be able to guide you through this difficult period.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning bipolar disorder’s link to anxiety and depression?

We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.

Reference Sources

¹ MentalHealth.gov: What Is Mental Health?

² National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Bipolar Disorder

³ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Anxiety Disorders

⁴ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Depression

⁵ U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): What are the five major types of anxiety disorders?

⁶ MedlinePlus: Panic Disorder

⁷ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness

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