Anxiety in Bipolar Disorder

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Anxiety is a natural part of the human condition and it's certainly a feature of bipolar disorder. Everyone knows what it feels like to be anxious but for some people the symptoms can be so severe as to resemble a physical illness. Shaking, palpitations, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and digestive problems are just a few of the more common symptoms.


    The fact that a person has bipolar in no way excludes them from anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias or any of the other conditions associated with anxiety. It is not uncommon for anxiety to predate the first symptoms of bipolar.

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    As many people with bipolar know only too well, regular sleep is important. Worry is something that keeps people awake. In bipolar, sleep disturbances can signal the onset of an episode. For the person who is anxious this becomes something of a vicious circle as to whether worry is causing the sleep disturbance or whether they are worrying about the possibility of relapse.


    Anxiety is a problem when it interferes with everyday life. It is also a common feature of depression and is characterized by the anticipation of problems, an over-estimation of their importance or consequences and a general pattern of negative thinking. Awareness of these thought processes and the subsequent adoption of stress management techniques can be very helpful, or provide some sense of personal empowerment over events.


    There is no compelling evidence that anti-depressants are effective in the treatment of anxiety for people with bipolar disorder. In fact it is generally understood that the use of such medication can help trigger the onset of manic states. Atypical antipsychotic medications do have anxiety relieving properties but as the root of much anxiety relates to thought processes a good psychologist or other psychotherapist can help identify the issues and work with the person to devise adaptive coping strategies.



    Ghaemi, S.N. (2008) Treatment of Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder: Are Antidepressants Mood Destabilizers? The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165: 300-302


    Davis, Jeanie. "Is it Really Depression?." WebMD. 2006. 7 Aug 2009

Published On: August 07, 2009