Question

Bipolar Disorder

What is the difference between bipolar anxiety and bipolar agitation?

A Answers (2)

  • AMichael Berk, PhD, Psychiatry, answered on behalf of International Bipolar Foundation

    This is a complex question and the differences are often not clear, and frequently overlap. In anxiety, the person can experience psychological worry and physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, tremor, palpitations and restlessness. Agitation tends to be characterized more by a physical need to move, and at times, an increased drive and energy but this often is associated with elevated levels of anxiety.

  • AJulie A. Fast, Psychology, answered

    Anxiety is about worry in the mind and body and agitation is about restlessness in the mind and body.

    Agitation is common in bipolar disorder, but it’s often mistaken for anxiety. The following explains the differences between the two.

    Anxiety

    Anxiety symptoms include worry, fear and scary physical sensations such as heart palpitations.

    It’s estimated that 90% of people with bipolar depression have anxiety.

    Will things get better? Am I going to be alone? I’m going to wreck my car. I’m going to fail. I always fail. I can’t breathe in here. I’m having a heart attack.

    Though there can be physical sensations in anxiety such as shortness of breath, it is not always a physical episode. The mind is usually more active than the body.

    Agitated Depression

    Agitated depression usually includes anxiety and the less talked about symptoms of depression including irritation, anger, feeling uncomfortable, restlessness and trouble sleeping. This is an active depression as compared to a depression that slows a person down or creates a profound sense of sadness.

    Dysphoric Mania

    Anxiety and agitated depression are tough to deal with, but the biggest problem with bipolar disorder and agitation is agitated mania- also called dysphoric mania

    Dysphoric mania means that a person has the energy of mania along with the symptoms of anxiety and agitated depression. This mania is simply awful because it combines a restless mind, an uncomfortable body and a sense of being trapped by something and needing to get out. It is much stronger than anxiety or agitated depression.

    I recently went through a six week dysphoric manic episode. Work was a struggle. My creativity had no direction. I drove around for hours just trying to find a place where I felt comfortable. I missed a writing deadline and was positive I hated my work and needed to move to Barcelona (!!). I was very depressed, but I wasn’t anxious overall. I kept telling people, “I have to get out of here! I have to leave!” I’m lucky that I have a strong management plan in place- I stuck with it and made it through. So, I am not writing this from Barcelona!

    Hopefully you or your loved one doesn’t (don't?) have to experience anxiety, agitated depression or dysphoric mania, but at least you now know some of the signs. I made it through my episode and others can too.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
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