Anxiety and depression have a lot of similarities. While the two are clearly separate conditions with separate causes and symptoms, both of them are affected by life stress, both have a genetic component, and both relate to neurotransmitter dysfunction.
So it should come as no surprise that many people that suffer from bipolar disorder – one of the most common and unique of all depression disorders - also have anxiety. Below, we'll explore how bipolar disorder can cause anxiety as a symptom, how anxiety can contribute to bipolar disorder, and when you have two separate disorders.
Learn to Control Your Anxiety
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health problem and requires a commitment to treatment. Both bipolar disorder and anxiety can be cured. Speak to your mental health care professional, and take my free 7-minute anxiety test to find out more about your anxiety.
Recognizing Your Anxiety Disorder
The ups and downs of bipolar disorder can be so pronounced that it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between anxiety and regular bipolar disorder symptoms. Get your free anxiety profile by taking my free 7-minute anxiety test now.
Bipolar disorder and anxiety are not the same conditions. They have very different symptoms as well:
- Bipolar Disorder – Symptoms include feelings of profound depression, with lows that reduce energy, prevent feelings of joy, and can lead to excessive tiredness, irritability, and sadness. It can also create manic highs, with excessive energy, euphoria, rapid thoughts, and hyperactivity.
- Anxiety – Nervousness and worry in situations that do not warrant it. Rapid heartbeat and sweating. Shaking. Feeling on edge, like you have something dangerous or scary that you’re facing.
Not only are symptoms very different, but they also feel different the person struggling with them. At their core, they’re not necessarily the same condition. Yet there are many reasons to both share commonalities, and many reasons that those with bipolar disorder may also have anxiety.
Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder Can Develop Together
First, it’s possible to have two separate, distinct mental health challenges. Since bipolar disorder and anxiety tend to develop under periods of extreme stress, it's possible that the two do develop simultaneously. While you were developing bipolar disorder due to stress, you may also have developed anxiety.
Another reason they may form simultaneously is that they may share similar brain chemistry changes. Because bipolar disorder and anxiety are both related to an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain, it's possible that the same neurotransmitters that contribute to bipolar disorder also create anxiety.
So while it is tempting to look at anxiety as a symptom of bipolar disorder, it is important to remember that they could have simply developed at the same time.
Anxiety as a Bipolar Disorder Symptom
It's also possible that anxiety is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Anxiety is a frequent complaint of those that have bipolar disorder. They feel a nervousness during either their highs or their lows, and that anxiety can be severe enough to be problematic for their depression treatment.
There are many different reasons that people with bipolar disorder may have anxiety while they’re struggling with depression. Some of the possible reasons include:
- Trouble Adjusting The development of anxiety may be as simple as struggling to adjust when you have bipolar disorder. Living with bipolar disorder can be very difficult, and in some cases that may make it harder to find life relaxing - even when you're free of your bipolar disorder symptoms.
- Agitation and Mania Many of those with bipolar disorder suffer from clear agitation and nervousness, especially during times of mania. Mania creates a great deal of excess energy, and it's likely that that excess energy ends up translating into anxiety, especially when it goes unused.
- Worry Over Behaviors - During periods of mania, some people engage in dangerous behaviors, such as seeking out sex in risky situations and impulsive behaviors. Even though the desire to engage in these behaviors is strong, those that perform them can still feel anxiety knowing they are at risk.
It’s not entirely clear why anxiety would be a symptom of bipolar disorder on its own, but it does appear to show itself at roughly the same time.
The best way to tell if your bipolar disorder is causing your anxiety is if it cycles with your bipolar symptoms. Generally, if they were separate disorders, the anxiety would persist regardless of where you are with your bipolar disorder. But determining this may be difficult.
Anxiety Disorder Development and Treatment
Even if anxiety is a symptom of bipolar disorder, it can still develop into its own disorder. If you develop panic attacks, generalized anxiety, social phobia, etc., it may not matter if your bipolar disorder caused them - it's likely that you'll still benefit from an anxiety treatment.
Researchers and psychologists also believe that it’s often important to treat both so that you can also manage bipolar disorder symptoms. That is because anxiety can trigger bipolar episodes. Someone may be able to manage their bipolar disorder with therapy or medication, but if they are unable to cope with anxiety, they may put themselves under stress in a way that makes bipolar management more difficult.
Both Can Be Cured
Despite the challenges associated with both bipolar disorder and anxiety, there is some good news. Both bipolar disorder and anxiety can be cured completely. None of them are permanent conditions, no matter how they feel. The question is finding the right treatment for you - which can sometimes take time - and committing to that treatment even when your symptoms recover.
First, talk to your mental health care professional about your bipolar disorder. Depression is the type of condition that benefits from immediate intervention. Remember, every single person suffering from these conditions can be treated, but there is a lot of trial and error involved along the way because not all treatments work for each individual.
Then, talk to your mental healthcare advisor about your anxiety, and don't forget to take my free 7-minute anxiety test now. It'll give you a complete profile of your anxiety, compare your anxiety to others, and provide some recommendations of at home anxiety relief techniques.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jan 03, 2018.