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Can Ptsd Cause The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder

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Old 03-08-2008, 10:18 AM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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bryzy HB User
Can Ptsd Cause The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder

Hello to whoever visits. Hopefully you're looking at this feeling good.

I have a question not one of three psychiatrists has answered for me. Can PTSD lead to bipolar disorder??

Last year I had a problem, a problem that caused me to become more violent and angry than I have been before in my life. I went to see a psychiatrist. He asked me for my family history and I mentioned my father claims he is Bipolar.....something that is possible, but I know that he has previously been dx'd with personality disorder, and may have chosen to adopt the illness so he could be like his sister in some way. My aunty has bipolar and so there is a strong possiblity of genetic link. As soon as this psychiatrist was told this, he made the alarming and imediate statement that I am a sufferer of bipolar disorder. If that is correct, then I have had this for a very long time.

My own doctor was not convinced and suggested a 2nd opinion. That said, I went along to another psychiatrist and spoke at length to him, only to be told that it is 'highly likely' that I suffer from bipolar disorder.

Spot on! Two out of two. Time for the medication. I couldn't get it without being under the treatment of a locally appointed Psychiatrist. I went and spoke to a 'senior house doctor', who asked me a variety of different questions from the first two guys. Having done so, he then brought the psychiatrist into the room and I was told that I did not have bipolar disorder, and that I have PTSD (this is based on some of the very bad things I have seen, that I told the SHD about when he asked me questions relative to them). I was sent away. Confused, angry, wanting to scream, punch, kick, cry, be cuddled, told it was okay, I'd now reached yet another brick wall in my life. Only this one couldn't be climbed even with a ladder. Inconsoleable, I had no direction left to go. It was that simple "You're not bipolar, you have PTSD", and within five more minutes I was out of the door with no medical clue as to who I was anymore.

I began assessing what the last psychiatrist had said, looking in detail at what had been happening to me in the fairly recent past - well all of my past. I know of a trigger point if PTSD has caused me to 'flip' shall we say? I know of a few of these trigger points. But, looking into the bipolar issue I began to see signs that were there in my life. Most of the symptoms are apparent. I've been diagnosed with Clinical Depression, Stress, , Depression........but it never dawned on the doctors who spoke to me way back when that I had 'Manic Depression'. Yep, I know of the misdiagnosis that goes on, how hard it is for well paid experts to identify the right illness, but surely, there must have been, for God's sake, someone must have known??? No, I guess not!

So, the question is, if the bipolar was not seen in those years, could it be that a fairly recent bout of what can be called PTSD or even stress have caused the bipolar to 'flare-up'? I ask you guys because quite simply, I ain't got a hope in hell of getting a straight answer from the experts and believe me, I have asked.

I was sent back to the first guy to be re-assessed. He immediately ruled out PTSD and kept the diagnosis of Recurrent Bipolar Disorder (rapid cycling).
And here I am...................................los t.


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Old 03-08-2008, 02:27 PM   #2
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seaturtle HB User
Re: Can Ptsd Cause The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder


No wonder you're confused and angry. Yes, Bipolar has a strong genetic link, definitely. And, like other psychiatric disorders, its onset can be from severe stress. People can have the potential for a disorder and have what they call a "precipitating event" that just sets it off.

May I ask how old you are? Late teens and twenties are often when it starts, but it can start at any age.

Your history seems as if you've been having mood swings all your life.

I do not understand a psychiatrist diagnosing you with one or the other. It is absolutely possible that you have both. It's just that the bipolar can be treated (must, often, be treated) with the right medications.

If I were in your shoes, I would stick with the doctor who diagnosed bipolar and try the meds and some therapy. In the therapy, the PTSD can also be addressed.

Last, what do you think/feel you have?

Doctors can be infuriatingly off base, and it is important to realize that many people, I, for one, can received a number of different diagnoses from different doctors. Whatever your diagnosis, you do need help.

Reading through the post on this board might also help you be sure of the bipolar.

Hope to hear from you again soon, and I send you all my encouragement and welcome you here.


Old 03-09-2008, 03:14 AM   #3
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bryzy HB User
Re: Can Ptsd Cause The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder

Thanks Seaturtle.

Thanks for your reply. Me, well I'm 43, and I accept the label I have been given of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder. Like I say, I can identify specific points where my stress levels have gone through the roof and no doubt cause my mania and depression to 'spike' abnormally.

I told my job about one such incident, complaining in an annual self assessment. They didn't like it and told me to re-write it which, being a good guy as much as I can, I did to save other people (my supervisors) getting into trouble. So, the same stresses went unchallenged and untreated becasue I just kept going as normal - but very bitter towards my employer, with a resentment that began to fester deep within the mind going to the pit of my stomach.

I've done crazy things throughout most of my formative years, well into adolesence and adulthood. I have been divorced - and rightly so, by women who could not cope with my mood swinging. At certain stages the lows exceeded the highs considerably and naturally all of the dark phases came into play. I would get so frustrated after 'bottling everything up', that one minor thing, even a harsh word towards me would ignite the whole of my bad side. Who could stay with such a person...........??

So for some time now I have realised that the depressive illness that I have had has been much deeper than first diagnosed and feel glad that I have the right one of bipolar. Most of the symptoms fit and I queried my psychiatrist over the fact I don't have them all i.e: self harming. He was right I guess when he told me that not everybody ticks every box for any illness, we're all individuals.

The last psychiatrist had said PTSD. However when her report came through, right at the bottom of the page it said 'PTSD but bipolar cannot be ruled out'. You know, somehow I don't think they're meant to mess with our heads even more by 'guessing'.

There's loads more going on right now that cause me so many mixed emotions that I cannot get out of the depressive side. Oh yeah! I smile, laugh and speak to people and everyone sees it as the normal old me, but right there, deep inside is the anguish that nothing, absolutely nothing is going the right way at the moment. Still, the sun is shining and another day is here. Live in the 'now' and not the past or the future as my therapist said.
Don't connect the past to the future, thinking about the bad things that have happened - they've gone. Tomorrow isn't here yet, so that leaves us with today. That's a great outlook on life and I try to practice it every time I get down, but every day out of therapy something causes it to slip furtherfrom my mind.

Take care.


Old 03-09-2008, 10:58 AM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: England
Posts: 305
NutshellNutter HB User
Re: Can Ptsd Cause The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder

Hi there Bryzy,
OK... let me give you a bit of my history.. it seems that both of our histories, our multiple diagnoses, our confusions all run in parallel.

I (retrospectively) had been depressed since my early teens. At the age of 20 my mum's death sent that depression much much lower. I went to my GP who began to treat me for depression with anti-depressant after anti-depressant. None of them made any difference.

Then at the age of 26 following harassment at work I suffered a 'depressive breakdown', was hospitalised for 1 month for my suicidal intentions and self harm and placed under the care of a (very good) consultant psychiatrist who I could relate with. I was officially dignosed with MDD, Major Depressive Disorder and began the cognitive and medical treatment for such. However, my mood would flip into an EXTREME suicidal low at the click of my fingers so I was prescribed mood stabilsers in addition to anti-depressants. Five anti-depressants later we found one that worked - life got better.

So, life was getting better - I had a new 'live for today' attitude after my cognitive therapy. Now that I wasn't SO low when talking to my psychiatrist I found myself talking about things that I hadn't mentioned to him before, about the UPS, the HIGHS I had also experienced. You see, when I was so deeply, suicially depressed for so long I couldn't remember, couldn't see any of these times - but now, now that I was getting better, having good days - I could see them once again. He asked me detailed questions about my UP times - times when I could 'feel colours', 'smell the air', 'feel electric', 'non-stop energy' etc.. etc... At times other people had quoted to me that I was like a different person.

Now with the knowledge that I could feel HIGH as well as LOW my diagnosis was changed to Bipolar 2 at the age of 27 by my psychiatrist. I really get on well with him so although it was hard for me to accept what I considered to be another 'label' , I did accept it. Luckily my drug regime didn't change - I was already on mood stabilisers and anti-deps.

Further age 27 I was readmitted to hospital for anorexia - another label - but there was no denying this one (Well, plenty of denying at the time, but not looking back).

Age 28 I began to talk to a clinical psychologist. He challenged the BP diagnosis and opted intsead for PTSD, knowing my indepth childhood experiences he actually opted for chronic PTSD. We worked in depth together and I began to accept his diagnosis, and unlabelled myself as not BP (however I still kept seeing my psychiatrist who was treating me for BP). I learnt ALOT about PTSD, what chronic stress does to the mind etc... and came out the other side a changed woman.

At age 29 I was feeling so in control I brought myself off the meds. Off the anti dep first - BAD idea - had to go back on it after one month of not sleeping nor eating and the worst nausea ever. Then brought myself off the mood stabilser - with no side physical side effect. I done all this not under the care of my psychiatrist was he was off work on long term illness. I flipped into mania - I didn't see it at all at the time, everyone else did. Everyone else told me about it but I chose to deny them all as I knew better, I knew me.

I made some BIG life changing decisions then, and I still to this day, and forever woulnd't chnage them. BUT, I do recognise (now back on the medications!) that retrospectively I DID flip into mania.

I have now therefore chose to step back and accept the psychiatrists diagnosis of BP. Fair enough he diagnosed MDD first, but then that is all that I presented with at the time - it was only when I got a little better I could remember the highs. However, I should have stuck with his diagnosis and not messed around with the PTSD diagnosis. Going with it made me think it was ok not to take my BP meds - and it wasn't.

After gaining an indepth and insightful understanding of PTSD, I ask does everyone in the planet not suffer from it a little? Have we not all had some sort of experience that has changed us as an individual, stressed our systems?? I think so.... I think it is a very, too, general of a diagnosis - used too often and too dangerously.

BP is mor specific to me. If we have been diagnosed with it I feel that we can have more direction in our future lives, even though we should live for today. Living for today is a good rule you know - it got me through many moments - I hope you find it helps too.

Take good care,

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