Panic Attacks and Bipolar Disorder

Marcia Purse Health Guide
  • Have you had a panic attack? If so, you're not alone.


    A panic attack is a sudden onset of severe anxiety so intense that it causes physical reactions - when there is nothing to be afraid of. Your heart rate can soar, you might start to tremble or shake, your mouth dries up. You might feel nauseated or feel you can't breathe. You may feel dizzy or weak.


    A meta-analysis of more than 5,500 patients scored the incidence of panic attacks and panic disorder across a number of other mental disorders. Of these, 61 patients had bipolar disorder.


    Among those patients, 7.6% were diagnosed with panic disorder, 4.6% had a history of panic attacks, and 9% were currently having panic attacks. While those figures aren't as high as most of the other conditions listed (including several anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder), they still give a good look at the prevalence of panic attacks in bipolar disorder. Almost one out of ten of us is experiencing panic attacks at any given time, along with 4.6% more of us who have had them in the past.

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    Why is the number of diagnoses smaller than the number of people having and having had panic attacks? A variety of reasons. The history might include just one or two attacks. The episodes might be too far apart. Possibly a medication for bipolar was found to control the panic attacks as well.


    If you are having panic attacks, make sure you inform your doctor. There are medications that can ease them without conflicting with what you take for your bipolar.


    Share your stories of panic attacks in the comments.



    Batelaan, N.M., et al. (2012) Panic attacks as a dimension of psychopathology: Evidence for associations with onset and course of mental disorders and level of functioning. Psychiatric Times,


Published On: September 30, 2012