What is the Connection Between Bipolar and OCD?

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  • Written By: B. Schreiber
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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The connection between bipolar and OCD is is a continuing subject of psychological study. One thing that seems clear is that some mood disorders have been linked to a higher rate of suffering from an anxiety disorder. Bipolar disorder and major depressive orders are classified as mood disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a an anxiety disorder like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. When two disorders like bipolar and OCD occur at the same time, they are said to be comorbid.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by depressive episodes of loss of hope and discouragement. As with major depressive disorder, physical complaints might include loss of appetite, low energy levels, and trouble sleeping. Unlike major depression, which is more common, people with bipolar disorder rebound into a manic state. Manic states are characterized by high energy, and people in a manic state might be extremely talkative or active and feel the need for little sleep. Sometimes manic sprees can lead to unsafe behavior due to overconfidence.

OCD is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers develop obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive rituals. For instance, the irrational fear of hitting someone with a car might lead someone with OCD to retrace their route multiple times to make sure he didn't. Such an action, which originally relieved the stressful thought, eventually becomes strictly compulsive.


One connection between bipolar and OCD is that psychiatrists often look for other issues a patient may be having in addition to the main problem. Anxiety disorders are sometimes comorbid with mood disorders like bipolar disorder. So, to fully treat a patient with both bipolar and OCD disorders, treatment must take into account both issues at once. In addition, substance abuse can occur with both mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Addressing substance abuse is usually an important part of treatment.

Like other mood and anxiety disorders, incidences of bipolar and OCD are rising in some countries, including the United States. These disorders are also appearing in younger people, like those in their late teens. Scientists are studying the possible roles of genetic influences, brain chemistry, and cognition in both bipolar and OCD.

Bipolar disorder, at least in its depressed form, shares another feature with OCD. Negative thoughts contribute to negative moods, and the reverse is also true. This has been called a "vicious cycle" that can sustain depression or lead to the revolving obsession-compulsion condition of OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which seeks to confront and change negative thoughts, might be used in different ways to treat either disorder. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs might also be used to treat either condition, or both, if a trained psychiatrist feels it is warranted.


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