OCD and Bipolar
Updated: Jan 30
by Noor Darwish
Living with any kind of mental illness can often be very stressful. This is expected in people with OCD as dealing with intrusive thoughts and ideas, uncontrollable and recurring obsessions along with feelings anxiety and onlookers not understanding and undermining OCD is obviously not helpful. Many times people with OCD also struggle with other mental illnesses, and one of the most severe is Comorbid OCD with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes people to have high highs (manic episodes) and low lows (depressive episodes). Many people may feel vulnerable and emotional in between these episodes and many people feel normal. These episodes can happen multiple times a year, or happen very rarely.
There are different kinds of bipolar disorder, the first one being Bipolar I. Bipolar I includes manic episodes and severe depressive episodes. This is the most severe kind of bipolar and often leads people with the disorder to the hospital.
The second type of bipolar is Bipolar II. Bipolar II includes hypomanic episodes. These episodes are similar to manic episodes but are less severe. People with Bipolar II still experience severe depressive episodes.
Bipolar is a manageable disorder with therapy and prescription drugs.
You may be wondering, what is the overlap with Bipolar and OCD? Well, around 2.3 percent of the American population suffers from bipolar disorder and around 2.2 percent of the American population has OCD. There is a very prevalent overlap between these disorders. Around 20 percent of bipolar patients show signs of OCD. These symptoms of OCD often worsen during manic episodes.
One of the reasons that Comorbid OCD-Bipolar disorder is severe is that patients that suffer from both of the disorders are more likely to have substance abuse issues and higher suicide rates, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression (or have symptoms of anxiety or depression), and experience sensory phenomena. When the disorders overlap, patients also tend to experience amplified symptoms and have a harder time finding a drug routine to manage their disorder.
To manage a comorbid OCD-Bipolar disorder it is extremely important to talk to a psychiatrist and find a drug regime that is personalized as both diseases are manageable. Many people with both disorders live productive and full lives. It is also important to understand that the process of finding a treatment plan may be extensive as the drugs used to controlled OCD symptoms can make mania and hypomania symptoms worsen.