Bipolar Disorder

The Link Between OCD and Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder are frequently diagnosed with OCD. Yet, the nature of the link between these two diseases in the brain is still unknown.

Bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are mental illnesses that can significantly interfere with your daily activities. Each has its own set of symptoms as well as treatment options. Yet, the two are typically comorbid, which means they frequently occur together. So, what are these illnesses, and what is the link between them?

What Is A Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is the presence of two or more illnesses at the same time. Comorbidities are typically chronic conditions (long-term). These two or more conditions frequently interact, resulting in poorer health outcomes for those affected. Having any comorbidities is associated with a lower quality of life and an increased risk of mortality. Regrettably, the greater your comorbidities, the worse your prognosis.

What Is OCD?

OCD is a condition in which a person experiences repetitive, uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) or specific activities that they believe must be repeated indefinitely (compulsions). Obsessive thoughts frequently cause discomfort or anxiety, which the person strives to alleviate through compulsive action. The National Institute of Mental Health provides the following examples of OCD thoughts and behaviors:

  • Violent thoughts about others or about oneself
  • Obsessive counting
  • Cleaning excessively
  • germ phobia
  • Wanting everything to be symmetrical or in perfect order
  • organizing and ordering things in a precise order
  • Checking on items on a regular basis, such as ensuring sure the stove is turned off.
  • Unwanted, prohibited, or taboo ideas about sex, religion, or harm

Every habit is not a compulsion. Individuals with OCD often can’t control their unpleasant thoughts or behaviors, don’t enjoy them, spend an hour or more a day on them, and suffer severe disturbances in their everyday life as a result of them.

OCD is a long-term condition. Symptoms can change over time, sometimes improving and sometimes increasing. Psychotherapy, medicine, or a combination of the two are used to treat OCD.

If you are diagnosed with OCD and receive therapy, your symptoms will most likely improve, but they may not go away completely. Yet, because OCD is a very disabling disorder, it is critical that you seek and adhere to treatment regimens devised by your health care professional.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder produces unique and often excessive mood, activity, concentration, and energy swings. Depending on the symptoms, these shifts can seriously impair one’s capacity to carry out important everyday tasks.

Individuals with bipolar disorder go through various mood swings throughout their lives. A euthymic state is a period when there are no mood swings and everything feels constant and solid. When someone has a manic episode, they feel extremely energized and elated. Mania is frequently followed by a depressive episode, which includes emotions of melancholy, hopelessness, and general exhaustion.

Following treatment and the passage of time, the euthymic/stable state returns and lasts until the next mood disturbance is triggered by stress, a lack of sleep, or other circumstances. Mixed episodes occur when a person has both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.

The Link Between OCD and Bipolar Disorder

There is a strong link between bipolar disorder and OCD, according to research. Comorbidity among mental illnesses is widespread, but the co-occurrence of OCD and bipolar disorder can be especially disruptive and difficult to treat.

Some data suggest that the overlap between the two diseases may be due to OCD symptoms being signs of bipolar depressive episodes rather than a separate occurrence of OCD.

Those who suffer from both bipolar disorder and OCD appear to have a very high prevalence of various forms of mental disease, particularly panic disorder and impulse control difficulties. Those with co-occurring OCD and bipolar illness have a higher disease severity, a greater need for particular treatment modalities, and a higher risk of suicide, according to research.

Although there is no single gene that connects OCD with bipolar disorder, there is growing evidence that the two conditions share several genes. People with bipolar disease and persons with OCD both have a decline in specific forms of verbal memory.

Bipolar Disorder Quiz

Do I have bipolar? Take this test to determine if you could benefit from further evaluation and treatment by a mental health expert.

The Incidence of Bipolar Disorder In People With OCD

A high proportion of comorbidity between bipolar disorder and OCD has been discovered in numerous research and systematic reviews. According to the study, the actual prevalence of OCD in bipolar disorder ranges from 10% to 21%.

Nonetheless, the link is noteworthy, given that only 2% to 3% of the general population will be diagnosed with OCD in their lifetime. This indicates that if you have bipolar disorder, you’re three to ten times more likely to get OCD.

Pic: Bipolar disorder

Treating Bipolar With OCD

It is difficult to treat bipolar disorder with OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used as first-line treatment for OCD, although these drugs might cause mania or worsen bipolar disorder symptoms. Mood stabilizers, which are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, are frequently ineffectual in alleviating OCD symptoms.

However, according to a 2020 study of treatment methods, the mood-stabilization treatment appeared to have the highest efficacy and the lowest risk of causing negative effects. But, because everyone reacts differently to medication and drug combinations, your doctor will work with you to determine the best course of action.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used in conjunction with medication to treat both OCD and bipolar disorder. If you are diagnosed with both conditions, your doctor would most likely prescribe a mood stabilizer as well as CBT.

Although bipolar disorder and OCD are definitely connected, having one does not guarantee the other. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with both, continuing your treatment plan and meeting with your healthcare provider on a regular basis to discuss difficulties will help you feel better.