The Effect of PTSD on People With Bipolar Disorder

Depressed woman sitting near the window
Martin Dimitrov / Getty Images

Within the U.S., approximately 4% of adults will have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. What is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is considered a mood disorder. There are two types of bipolar disorders, described as bipolar I and bipolar II.

In bipolar I disorder, a person has experienced one or more manic episodes. In most cases of bipolar I, episodes of major depression are a central aspect of the overall course of the illness.

In bipolar II disorder, hypomanic episodes have been experienced but not manic episodes. In addition, to be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, a person needs to have also experienced a major depressive episode

Bipolar disorder can have a major impact on your life; and it can also increase the risk that you develop other disorders.

In fact, people with bipolar disorder have been found to be at high risk for developing a number of other mental health disorders. One such disorder that co-occurs with bipolar disorder at high rates is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder and PTSD

A review published in 2017 concluded that up to 40% of people with bipolar disorder also meet criteria for PTSD. It is not entirely surprising that high rates of PTSD are found among people with bipolar disorder, as many people with bipolar also have a history of traumatic exposure. Traumatic exposure may be more likely to occur during a manic episode when a person with bipolar disorder is more likely to make risky or impulsive decisions.

In addition to being a risk factor for the development of PTSD, traumatic exposure during childhood, such as childhood physical or sexual abuse, may also be risk factors for the development of bipolar disorder.

The Effect of PTSD Among People With Bipolar Disorder

Having PTSD along with bipolar disorder can have a major negative impact on your life. People with PTSD and bipolar disorder appear to have more problems across a number of different areas in their lives.

For example, PTSD has been found to worsen the quality of life for people with bipolar disorder. A 2010 study found that patients with co-occurring bipolar disorder and PTSD experienced more rapid cycling periods and increased risk for suicide attempts.

Finally, PTSD has also been found to be associated with greater levels of depression among people with bipolar disorder, according to a 2013 study.

How to Find Help

If you have PTSD and bipolar disorder, it is very important to take steps to manage both conditions. There are a number of healthy coping strategies for managing your symptoms as well as effective treatments for bipolar disorder and PTSD. Check websites to help you find treatment providers in your area who specialize in PTSD and/or bipolar disorder.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  1. Ketter TA. Diagnostic features, prevalence, and impact of bipolar disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71(6):e14. doi:10.4088/JCP.8125tx11c


  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington D.C.: 2013.

  3. Cerimele JM, Bauer AM, Fortney JC, Bauer MS. Patients With Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Rapid Review of the Literature. J Clin Psychiatry. 2017;78(5):e506-e514. doi:10.4088/JCP.16r10897


  4. Nemeroff CB. Paradise Lost: The Neurobiological and Clinical Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Neuron. 2016;89(5):892-909. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2016.01.019

  5. Quarantini LC, Miranda-scippa A, Nery-fernandes F, et al. The impact of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder on bipolar disorder patients. J Affect Disord. 2010;123(1-3):71-6. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2009.08.005

  6. Bajor LA, Lai Z, Goodrich DE, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and health-related quality of life in patients with bipolar disorder: review and new data from a multi-site community clinic sampleJ Affect Disord. 2013;145(2):232–239. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2012.08.005