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What Is the Connection between PTSD and Bipolar?

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  • Written By: E. Reeder
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are very different mental health disorders and differ in terms of diagnosis, treatment and symptoms presented. One person can be afflicted with both disorders, although there is no necessary correlation between the two. There are, however, some similarities between PTSD and bipolar disorder.

Mood changes occur in both of these disorders. A person with PTSD may suffer depression and anxiety, both of which result in mood changes, while a person with bipolar disorder fluctuates between mania — a heightened and overly positive mood — and a depressed mood, often without a visible reason because of chemical imbalances inherent to the disorder. In PTSD, which is the result of experiencing trauma of some sort, whether physical or emotional, mood changes may be related to stimuli that remind the person suffering from PTSD of the trauma he or she experienced. People with either of these disorders may experience normal moods and pleasant interpersonal interactions at times when the symptoms are not evident.

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There may be withdrawal from people and social anxiety related to both of these disorders. Both PTSD and bipolar disorder can make it difficult for sufferers to have excellent relationships with friends and family. While many people with bipolar disorder and PTSD have healthy relationships, the difficulties that arise from the disorders can strain their interactions with others. The interpersonal problems that can occur, from arguments to misunderstandings, can make it more likely for those with either one of these disorders to become withdrawn and to experience some level of social anxiety.

Although it is not always the case, people with one, or both, of these disorders may harm themselves in ways such as self-mutilation — also called cutting — or suicide attempts. People with PTSD and bipolar disorder are more likely than the general population to attempt or successfully commit suicide. If left untreated, either one of these mental disorders can cause the sufferer to want to harm himself or herself.

Both PTSD and bipolar disorder can make life difficult if not diagnosed and treated. Therapy is often beneficial in treating both of these disorders, allowing people suffering from them to discuss the emotions and negative impacts the conditions have had on their personal and professional lives and relationships. In some cases, individual therapy may be needed, while family or group therapy may be beneficial in others. Medication may be beneficial for these disorders, as well, because some medications can help to alleviate anxiety or depression or to reduce or neutralize the mood swings that go with bipolar disorder.

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