At the Crossroads of Anxiety and Bipolar – Nancy

Anxiety and panic attacks are some of the “comorbidities” (concurrently occurring disorders) that folks with bipolar have to contend with.  Another concern is the complicated relationship between bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Social anxiety is often found in conjunction with bipolar.  Although many people think bipolar is characterized by the extraverted and friendly attitude often experienced during hypomanic episodes, the reality is that many people with bipolar also struggle with social anxiety.  Partly because of disruptions in social relationships that can often occur with bipolar, and partly perhaps due to a feeling of shame or stigma about mental illness, anxiety can be a significant burden.  Discussing your anxious feelings openly with a therapist, and other members of your support network can be helpful in finding viable ways of dealing with it.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a very real possibility.  Fortunately, recent research has led to significant progress in the treatment and relief of PTSD, and effective help is available.  People with bipolar may encounter experiences that lead to the risk of developing PTSD in a variety of ways: through risky behavior during hypomanic or manic episodes; through contact with family members with bipolar whose own behavior could expose you to risk, and through the kind of traumatic experiences that people may have, like crime, disaster, or abuse.  As many as one-third of all those with bipolar may experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Panic attacks are another problem sometimes found in conjunction with bipolar.  Extremely frightening an disabling, these attacks may lead one to take measures to avoid them that are, in the end, counter-productive.  Avoiding the situation that seems to have triggered the attack will not make the panic go away, and may in fact make the situation worse in the long run.

Cognitive behavior therapy is one recent development that can give effective help in treating panic disorder.  Talking about your experiences with a therapist or family member is a first step towards getting help and relief from these additional challenges.

We are excited to announce that this post is actually one of a series of sneak previews of the new Bipolar Disorder Workbook authored by our own Dr. Peter Forster and Gina Gregory.  It will be available beginning October 9, 2018.  Check it out on Amazon!