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PTSD & Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by depressive and manic states. Depressive episodes can cause depression, feeling of guilt. Episodes can last from days to weeks. There are two types:

i) Bipolar I Disorder

• Manic - a mood disturbance that makes you abnormally energized, both physically and mentally

• Psychotic symptoms include delusions and hallucinations

ii) Bipolar II Disorder

• Hypomanic - energy level is higher than normal, but it’s not as extreme as in mania

• No psychotic symptoms

Those with Bipolar disorder are more likely to develop PTSD and experiencing a traumatic event can put an individual at a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur when an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as sexual violence, war, or an injury.

Having a mood disorder can increase the risk of experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts/ flashbacks, avoidance of activities or things/ places, and alterations in cognition, mood, arousal, and reactivity. These symptoms can be misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, more commonly Bipolar I Disorder depending on their extremity and the individual’s ability to

convey their experience.

Common treatment for PTSD includes cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, stress inoculation therapy, group therapy, and medication. More recently, EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is being used. Psychotherapy is also used to treat bipolar disorder, and at times electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used. Mood stabilizing medication has also been shown to be an effective treatment option.

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