Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety: Exploring Treatment Options for Concurrent Disorders

People suffering from bipolar disorder have a predisposition to developing severe anxiety. These concurrent disorders influence and can exacerbate each other. Their concurrence can also lead to longer-term dangers, including a heightened risk of substance abuse. Long-term, comprehensive treatment is the best way to deal with both disorders and their causes separately and together.

“What triggers your anxiety?”

This seems like a simple question, but no one person who suffers from an anxiety disorder or severe panic attacks will have the same answer as another. There is usually a swirl of environmental, physical, social, and emotional conditions that feed into one and heighten one another. Difficult social situations, stress, negative thinking, financial concerns: those can all create or exacerbate anxiety.

If your loved one has bipolar disorder, they might be more predisposed to anxiety than other people, and you might have recognized that some of the triggers above are a common byproduct of their condition. That’s one of the reasons why bipolar disorder and anxiety often appear together as concurrent disorders. Long-term care that understands how to treat co-occurring disorders is the best way to make sure that instead of the disorders feeding off of one another until both reach a fever pitch, your loved one will be equipped to handle the unique challenges of each and manage the symptoms of both more effectively—and so will you.

How Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Work Together

Bipolar disorder is marked by alterations in disposition and behavior, with manic and depressive episodes alternating sporadically, sometimes frequently, and sometimes with long stretches of one of the other. There is no direct pattern, even if there are common triggers that can start someone down one path or the other.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, even though with therapy it can be managed. That means that people who suffer from it tend to have a pretty good idea of what their manic or depressive periods are capable of manifesting.

Alienation from friends and family. Challenges at work (even loss of a job). Difficulty in other interpersonal relationships. Becoming more prone to isolation, or more prone to substance abuse. The specifics vary from person to person, but at the end of the day, there is a strong chance that they will be faced with serious social or physical issues.

And what causes anxiety? Again, everyone has their own alchemy of triggers, but some common causes of anxiety include:

  • Traumatic events
  • Divorce or romantic issues
  • Financial stress
  • Troubles at work
  • Sudden illness
  • Other health issues

It’s not hard to see how all of these can potentially have roots in a manic or depressive episode. During a depressive episode, for instance, they might feel overwhelmed by stress, lose their job, or break off a relationship. Any one of these things can be a trigger for an anxiety attack, especially in someone who is particularly prone to anxiety.

It goes the other way around, too. While we don’t yet have 100% clarity on what triggers a bipolar episode, severe emotional stress clearly correlates with severe, crippling anxiety, which can often trigger a severe bipolar response.

It is a dangerous cycle, with potentially extreme effects on a person’s social, mental, and physical wellbeing. This troubling cycle can be broken, however, with the help of comprehensive therapy.

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Long-term Therapy for Concurrent Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders

It is impossible to neatly separate two concurrent disorders. They impact each other and feed into one another. They are intertwined, necessitating a treatment strategy that can address each disorder both individually and as two interlocking parts of a complete mental health picture.

That’s why comprehensive residential therapy for concurrent disorders is the only real way to break the cycle. It treats both disorders as triggers and outcomes, as both causes and effects. It understands the totality of your loved one’s unique circumstances and needs, and can address the roots of both bipolar and anxiety symptoms. And, with programming that includes an element of family therapy, you too can learn to more clearly see both your loved one’s needs and how to meet them in a way that best supports them without sacrificing your own need for self-care. In this way, you’ll be able to move forward together and build a life in which you and your loved one can not only coexist, but thrive.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental health illnesses and co-occurring disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.