Study Finds Bipolar Disorder Prevalent in Panic Disorder Patients

This morning’s sweep of the internet turned up a new study by the University of Tokyo, Japan suggesting bipolar disorder is common among Japanese patients who were being treated for panic disorder.

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder marked by repeated attacks of intense fear that something bad will happen. This is often accompanied by repeated panic attacks, generally peaking between 10-20 minutes at a time.

It seems like people have been drawing conclusions between bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders for a while now, and I find this study particularly interesting because of how interwoven anxiety is with the bipolar symptoms in my own life.

The study by the University of Tokyo, Japan (and colleagues) found that:

22.3% of 649 patients (434 women) with panic disorder met criteria for, or had a previous diagnosis of, bipolar I (BD I) or II (BD II) disorder.

That is nearly a quarter of the panic disorder patients studied, which is huge considering that they figured the prevalence of bipolar disorder in the general population was only estimated at about 0.2%.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, said 17.1% of total patients had bipolar type II, while 5.2% had bipolar type I.

The conclusion that such a high rate of bipolar disorder was found in panic disorder patients is important because the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders is usually antidepressants (which can quickly worsen bipolar symptoms). Knowing that those with panic disorder are more likely to have bipolar disorder than the general population can help doctors when considering treatment options for those with panic disorder across the board.

For more details on the study, you can find the whole article here.

5 responses to “Study Finds Bipolar Disorder Prevalent in Panic Disorder Patients

  1. I’ve read stuff online (not by drs I assume) that suggests that GAD and bipolar II are “the same”… I mean as if “racing thoughts” (as experienced in fullblown mania) is ANYTHING like the barely racing at all thoughts you might get in anxiety or panic. I’ve had a handful of panic attacks and extreme mania was at least ten times more intense than anything anxiety can do. I don’t remember ever totally not being able to follow what a person is saying because I felt anxious. Or not being able to read. At all. But mania did all those things and people who want to say that fulfilling anxiety criteria means you fulfill hypomanic criteria means the DSM is being taken too far. It was only ever meant to be a tool to standardize diagnoses made my fully trained and experienced clinicians. Lists of diagnostic criteria were never meant to replace a thorough knowledge of what a disorder is and involves. But that’s what they wanna use the DSM for now… even drs are starting to do that…

    • You would be surprised at how anxiety can look like mania, or like any number of things for that matter! I mean, to tell the truth I don’t know that I can be particularly objective about that… as my own experience is a little murky (having been diagnosed with both bipolar and GAD) but oftentimes I can’t tell where one leaves off and another begins. Just a month or two ago I had anxiety that somehow spun itself into full on delusions and paranoia -something that, up to this point, I would have classified as parts of a mixed episode (based on what I’ve experienced in the past). But, as I mentioned, there was no clear distinction from where the anxiety began, to where delusions and paranoia picked up. Are they separate? Is one causing the other, or are they simply one series of symptoms?

      I have no idea. The whole thing confuses the heck out of me, and I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around it for the better part of a month.

      I think I’d like to believe (based on my own life) that anxiety could potentially just be another symptom of what I experience, the way hypomania is to mania, anxiety is to full-fledged paranoia. It is still fear, just a precursor to something bigger, and has a scale unto itself.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. My anxiety is tied up in my bipolar as well. It makes it really difficult to figure out what is related to what disease. I fortunately have not had negative side effects of antidepressants o n my bipolar and they do help with my anxiety. Thanks for sharing. I love staying up to date on research

  3. The thing that really blew me away is that I was having panic attacks that I didn’t realize were panic attacks – I just didn’t recognize them as such, always found some other explanation. But I’ve always known that depressive episodes and anxiety go hand-in-hand for me. It’s just hard to segment out what’s bipolar, anxiety, or ADD with all the overlapping symptoms.

  4. I like the way you accurately describe in detail the feelings you have at different times. You convey the disorder in a way that broadens the mental picture for those who don’t carry the bipolar burden. I have found reading your blog therapeutic.

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