Can PTSD Cause Bipolar? Relationship Between These Two Mental Health Conditions

Can PTSD Cause Bipolar
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar disorder are two mental health conditions that can significantly impact a person’s life. They both have distinct symptoms and causes, yet they share some similarities. It is not uncommon for individuals to be diagnosed with both PTSD and bipolar disorder, but the question remains: Can PTSD cause bipolar or are these two conditions entirely independent of one another?
In this article, we will explore the relationship between PTSD and bipolar disorder, their symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It is often associated with individuals who have served in the military, but anyone can develop PTSD after a traumatic experience. The symptoms of this condition may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and avoidance of triggers that remind the individual of the traumatic event.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 3.5% of U.S. adults have PTSD in a given year. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mood disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience episodes of mania (an elevated or irritable mood) and depression, with periods of normal moods in between. These mood swings can significantly impact a person’s daily functioning and relationships.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.8% of U.S. adults have bipolar disorder in any given year. Furthermore, bipolar disorder affects both men and women equally.

Can PTSD Cause Bipolar?

Can PTSD cause bipolar disorder? it is a complicated question to answer as there is no clear-cut, simple explanation for the relationship between these two conditions. However, research suggests that individuals with PTSD may be more likely to have bipolar disorder.
One possible reason for this link could be due to shared risk factors. Both PTSD and bipolar disorder can have genetic components and environmental triggers. Traumatic events may trigger both conditions in individuals who are already genetically predisposed to develop them.
Moreover, PTSD and bipolar disorder share some common symptoms, such as irritability, sleep disturbances, and difficulty regulating emotions. These overlapping symptoms can make it challenging to differentiate between the two conditions and may lead to a misdiagnosis.
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Relaxation Techniques for PTSD

Most of the time, people who have PTSD can manage their symptoms with the help of relaxation techniques. Some of these techniques include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques may also be beneficial for individuals with bipolar disorder as they can help reduce stress and regulate emotions.
However, the following are the PTSD relaxation techniques that are being used in order to get rid of it.
  • Deep Breathing: Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4. Repeat this exercise for at least five minutes.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Acknowledge and observe your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and relax different muscle groups in your body, starting from the toes up to your head. This exercise can help reduce physical tension, which is commonly experienced with PTSD.
PTSD Manic Symptoms
Some individuals with PTSD may experience symptoms that are similar to manic episodes in bipolar disorder. These symptoms may include an elevated or irritable mood, increased energy levels, and impulsive behavior. However, these manic-like symptoms in PTSD tend to be triggered by reminders of the traumatic event rather than occurring on their own, as they do in bipolar disorder.
With the overlap in symptoms, it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional to receive the appropriate treatment.
Difference Between Bipolar and PTSD
There is an overlap in some of the symptoms and triggers between bipolar disorder and PTSD, but these two conditions are distinct from one another.
The main difference between bipolar disorder and PTSD is that bipolar disorder is a chronic condition characterized by recurring episodes of mania and depression, while PTSD develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Additionally, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience mood swings even when not triggered by specific events, whereas PTSD symptoms are usually triggered and may subside when the individual is not exposed to their triggers.

Bipolar Disorder


Chronic condition

Develops after a traumatic event

Mood swings without triggers

Symptoms triggered by reminders of the traumatic event

Recurring episodes of mania and depression

Flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, avoidance of triggers

Genetic predisposition

Triggered by a specific traumatic event 

It can be managed with medication and therapy

May require prolonged exposure therapy and other specialized treatments

It can last a lifetime

Symptoms may decrease over time with proper treatment

Requires ongoing management and support

This can be resolved with proper treatment 

It can affect daily functioning and relationships 

Can impact daily functioning and relationships

Why PTSD is Sometimes Misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder?

As mentioned earlier, there is an overlap in symptoms between PTSD and bipolar disorder, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. Some of the reasons why PTSD may be misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder include:

Similar symptom presentation:  As discussed, some of the symptoms of PTSD, such as irritability, sleep disturbances, and difficulty regulating emotions, are similar to those of bipolar disorder. This overlapping presentation can make it challenging for mental health professionals to differentiate between the two conditions.

Lack of accurate information:  PTSD is a relatively new condition, and there is still much to learn about it. As a result, some mental health professionals may not be aware of the symptoms and diagnostic criteria, leading to misdiagnosis.

Co-occurring conditions:  Both PTSD and bipolar disorder can co-occur with other mental health disorders, making it more challenging to diagnose accurately.

Treatment Options for PTSD

According to mental health experts and researchers, the most effective treatment for PTSD is trauma-focused psychotherapy. This includes prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy. Additionally, medication may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms, such as antidepressants for depression and anxiety.

It is essential to seek professional help if you believe you have PTSD or bipolar disorder. With proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals can learn how to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Following are the treatment options for PTSD that can help individuals overcome their symptoms:

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: This type of therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to their traumatic memories or triggers in a safe and controlled environment. The goal is to help them process and cope with these events effectively.

Cognitive Processing Therapy: This therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes surrounding the traumatic event.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements or other bilateral stimulation to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the intensity of their emotional reactions to them.

Medication: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers may be prescribed to manage PTSD symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes: Engaging in regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques, developing healthy coping strategies, and maintaining a balanced diet can also help manage PTSD symptoms.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be managed with a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. The treatment plan will depend on the severity of symptoms and their impact on daily functioning.

Some of the common treatment options for bipolar disorder include:

Medication: Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants may be prescribed to manage symptoms. It is essential to regularly monitor and adjust medication with the guidance of a mental health professional.

Psychotherapy: Therapy can help individuals understand their condition, learn coping strategies, and manage their symptoms effectively. Some of the therapies used for bipolar disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and family-focused therapy.

Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and managing stress can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms.

Support Groups: Joining support groups and connecting with others who have a similar condition can provide a sense of understanding and support.

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In conclusion, PTSD and bipolar disorder are two distinct conditions that may share some similarities in terms of symptoms. However, it is crucial to receive an accurate diagnosis to ensure proper treatment and management of symptoms. Seeking professional help and discussing any concerns or questions you may have with a mental health professional is the first step toward managing these conditions effectively. With the right resources, support, and treatment, individuals can overcome their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Question 1: Can you have PTSD and depression?

Ans 1: Yes, it is possible to have both PTSD and depression. Symptoms of PTSD can include feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest in activities, which are also common symptoms of depression.

Question 2: Do I suffer from PTSD?

Ans 2: Only a mental health professional can diagnose PTSD. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is essential to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis.

Question 3: Is PTSD a form of Depression?

Ans 3: No, PTSD is not a form of depression. While individuals with PTSD may experience symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness and loss of interest in activities, the two conditions have distinct diagnostic criteria and treatment approaches. So, it is essential to receive an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional. Overall, seeking help and receiving proper treatment can make a significant difference in managing both PTSD and bipolar disorder.
For more information and guidance related to Mental and Behavioral Health, get in touch with our specialized Adult Mental Health Expert!
Dr. Lubna Siddiki MD
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Dr. Lubna Siddiki MD
Dr. Lubna Siddiki is a board-certified Adult Psychiatrist. She specializes in treating adults struggling with various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. Dr. Siddiki believes in a holistic approach to mental health treatment and works closely with her patients to develop personalized treatment plans that focus on their overall well-being. She is dedicated to helping individuals improve their behavioral health and lead fulfilling lives.