Anxiety is a big factor in bipolar disorder. It can range from worrying about symptoms to full blown panic disorder. More than half of the people with bipolar disorder also have at least one type of anxiety disorder. With this knowledge, it is imperative that both professionals and patients educate themselves on the impact anxiety has on people with bipolar disorder. It is a serious illness that comes in many forms. Being able to recognize and treat anxiety in bipolar disorder can have a great impact on the livelihood of people suffering from both disorders.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is basically a disproportional amount of worry. It is persistent and negatively impacts a person’s daily life. According the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), apart from everyday anxiety or short-term anxiety, anxiety disorders typically last at least six months. In anxiety disorders, people will overestimate the danger or impact of a situation. Anxiety disorders typically develop during childhood and are more common in women than in men.
When a patient first seeks help for anxiety from a mental health professional, they may be given a survey to determine the severity of their anxiety. The patient rates seven statements on a scale of 1-5 referring to their symptoms over the past week. After the survey is completed, the mental health professional will determine the score to help determine whether or not the person may be dealing with an anxiety disorder. Note that this is not the only factor in determining whether or not a person has an anxiety disorder, it’s just the start.
The statements presented are:
1 I felt fearful
2 I felt anxious
3 I felt worried
4 I found it hard to focus on anything other than my anxiety.
5 I felt nervous
6 I felt uneasy
7 I felt tense
If a patient scores highly on the survey, the next step would be to try to determine if they have a diagnosable anxiety disorder and which type that may be.
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
There are many types of anxiety disorders as anxiety can manifest in different ways. The most common anxiety disorders are:
- Separation Anxiety Disorder– Typically occurring in children, the patient fears harm coming to loved ones. They may also have frequent nightmares.
- Social Anxiety Disorder-The patient is anxious about or avoidant of social interaction in fear of scrutiny. This occurs especially in unfamiliar circumstances.
- Panic Disorder-In panic disorder, patients will have sudden, intense feelings of anxiety and fear, known as a panic attack. Panic attacks are also accompanied by physical symptoms like heart palpitations, shaking, sweating and shortness of breath. Patients may become avoidant of specific circumstances in fear of having more panic attacks.
- Agoraphobia-People with agoraphobia tend to be afraid of being in open or closed spaces or being in a crowd. The fear is typically that they will not be able to escape. They often develop panic-like symptoms and may avoid circumstances that trigger their fears.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder-People with generalized anxiety disorder have an intense anxiety over numerous aspects of life including work, school and relationships. It can be accompanied by symptoms such as restlessness, feeling keyed up, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and sleep problems.
Being familiar with anxiety is an important part of understanding some aspects of bipolar disorder, since anxiety disorders are so common in conjunction with bipolar disorder. Part II discusses the effects of anxiety disorders on bipolar disorder and the difficulties in treatment.
This is Part I of “Anxiety & Bipolar Disorder.” You can find Part II here.
Image credit: HAMZA BUTT