OCD And Bipolar Disorder: Can You Have Both?

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 12/22/2020

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a common mental health disorder that impacts about one out of every 40 adults in the United States and one out of every 100 children. Bipolar disorder is another common mental health condition, and it impacts roughly 2.8% of those living in the United States. Say that you're diagnosed with OCD, but you're wondering if you could also have Bipolar disorder. Is it possible? In this article, we will go over the symptoms of both disorders and answer whether you can have both.

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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by periods of mania or hypomania and periods of depression. Bipolar I Disorder includes periods of full-blown mania and depression, whereas Bipolar II Disorder includes periods of the only hypomania (a lower-level form of mania) and depression. Here are the symptoms of mania or hypomania and the symptoms of depression in Bipolar disorder:

Symptoms of mania or hypomania:

  • Increased energy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Euphoria or agitation
  • A decreased need for sleep
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing due to distractibility
  • Impulsivity or impulsive behavior could include spending large amounts of money, reckless driving, grandiose thinking, random career or life changes out of character, gambling, and drinking or using drugs.

If someone is manic, their behavior will be out of character. They might be unusually upbeat, grandiose, or euphoric. Someone might also experience dysphoric mania or hypomania, which typically include symptoms that are more along the lines of irritability or agitation rather than the euphoria some people experience during a manic episode. If someone is undergoing a severe full-blown manic episode, they may even go into psychosis.

Symptoms of depression:

  • A low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or disproportionate guilt
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)

To be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, you must have had at least one manic or hypomanic episode. The average age of onset for Bipolar disorder is 25 years old, but it impacts people of all ages. If you believe that you may have Bipolar disorder, you must speak to a medical or mental health provider who can provide you with an adequate diagnosis. Note that people with Bipolar disorder are not either manic or depressed all of the time. They have manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes, but Bipolar disorder also comes with periods of time at a baseline state. When someone is experiencing a baseline state, it doesn't mean that they no longer have the disorder.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions, compulsions, and other symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts. There are a variety of different ways that obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD can manifest. Common forms of OCD include:

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  • Contamination OCD is a type of OCD where someone is obsessed with potential contamination and uses compulsions to prevent contamination.
  • Harm OCD with checking compulsions, Which is a type of OCD where someone is obsessed with preventing harm or worrying that harm may occur. The harm someone with OCD may worry about could be the harm that impacts themselves, such as a burglar breaking into their house or worrying about a family member being harmed. With this obsession comes compulsions where a person feels the need to prevent this harm from occurring. This may include checking the door repetitively to make sure that it's locked, repeating words or phrases, or something else.
  • Symmetry OCD with ordering compulsions is a type of OCD where someone is obsessed with symmetry or order and arranges items until they are "just right." It is not the same as being tidy or picky; obsessions and the need to engage in compulsions can take up hours of a person's day, and many people with this subtype of OCD experience intrusive thoughts that tell them something bad will happen if they don't order things perfectly. Part of the diagnosis for OCD, no matter your obsessions or compulsions, impacts your ability to function. Symmetry OCD with ordering compulsions isn't a personality trait or a joke. The need to arrange items can be so strong that they interfere with a person's ability to perform daily tasks, just like any other OCD compulsions.
  • Purely obsessive OCD, which is a type of OCD where someone has obsessions without visible compulsions. People with this type of OCD often have invisible mental compulsions, which can be just as debilitating as any other compulsions affiliated with OCD. Mental compulsions can look like counting in one's head, repeating phrases in one's head, or something else. Mental compulsions differ from other compulsions because they aren't noticeable from the outside.

Other forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder include but are not limited to religious OCD, relationship OCD, and sexuality OCD. To learn more about the different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder, check out our other blog posts on obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. As stated above, OCD impacts your ability to function or engage in daily life activities. This could occur in a number of ways. For example, you may find that symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder impact your relationships, work, schooling, or anything else. Like Bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a treatable mental health condition, and therapy is a known way to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Can You Have Both Bipolar And Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

You can have both Bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is very common for people with mental health conditions to have more than one mental health condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health disorders will impact one out of every four people. If you struggle with mental health conditions such as Bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or both, you are not alone, and help is available. As stated above, the average age of diagnosis for Bipolar disorder is 25. The average age of diagnosis for obsessive-compulsive disorder, on the other hand, is 19. Despite this, the onset of both conditions can occur earlier or later. A significant portion of those with OCD begins experiencing symptoms during childhood. If you have symptoms of either disorder and they're affecting your life, make sure to speak to a mental health professional who can help.

Is Someone With Bipolar More Likely To Have OCD?

Studies show that individuals living with Bipolar disorder are more likely to have symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There are a number of risk factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder, one of which is a personal history of another mental health condition. Other risk factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Environmental factors, such as the household one grew up in and the ideas or behaviors displayed in the household.
  • Life circumstances or events, such as traumatic experiences.
  • Brain structure.

Bipolar disorder has a similar set of risk factors. Risk factors for Bipolar disorder include:

  • Family history of Bipolar disorder or related disorders.
  • Trauma or life events.
  • Brain structure.

Like with OCD, having Bipolar disorder is not your fault. Note that these risk factors are simply factors that can increase the likelihood that someone will develop a disorder and that they are not direct causes. Therapy is known to help people with both obsessive-compulsive disorder and Bipolar disorder. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT are used for both conditions. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy is a non-invasive form of treatment that helps people with a wide range of conditions and concerns. For all information regarding specific treatments and therapies, please consult a medical or mental health professional.

Help For Bipolar Disorder

Both Bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are treatable mental health conditions. If you're looking for a counselor or therapist to see for either of these mental health conditions, there are a number of routes you can take. Here are some ways to find a therapist or counselor who can help you with any mental health concern you're facing:

  • Conduct an online search for mental health providers in your area by typing "Bipolar disorder therapists near me" or a similar phrase that applies to the kind of support you're looking for into your browser.
  • Make an appointment with your general doctor or primary care physician to talk about your symptoms. During that appointment, ask for a referral to a mental health provider such as a counselor or therapist.
  • Contact your insurance company or visit their website to see who they cover in your area.
  • Use an online directory that allows you to search for therapists based on their specialty and location.
  • Go through an online therapy website like BetterHelp that will pair you with a therapist or counselor after taking a brief questionnaire.

If you're struggling to find a mental health counselor or therapist, consider using the Mind Diagnostics website's provider search tool. It's easy to use, and any time you're on the Mind Diagnostics website, you'll notice that the tool is in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. Some people with Bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or both, decide to see a psychiatrist in conjunction with a therapist. Different treatments work for different people, so remember that you can always switch if you don't click with your current therapist or therapy modality. You deserve to get the support that works for you.

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Peer Support

Peer support options for obsessive-compulsive disorder and Bipolar disorder are both available. These peer support forms include support groups that meet in person, support groups that meet online, and online forums. To find a support group in your area, you can search for "Bipolar disorder support groups near me" or "obsessive-compulsive disorder support groups near me" using your search engine of choice. A medical or mental health professional might also be able to give you the recommendation to help you find what you're looking for. Support groups and online forums are not a replacement for mental health treatment, but they can give you a sense of community, which can be life-changing. Especially if you feel alone in what you're going through, support groups or forums are something to consider. Whether it's grief, Bipolar disorder, divorce, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or something else, there is a support group out there for you.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Bipolar Disorder Test

Do you think that you could have Bipolar disorder? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics Bipolar disorder test. Mind Diagnostics tests are fast, free, and confidential for those aged 18 and older. While they're not a replacement for a diagnosis from a medical or mental health professional, taking a Mind Diagnostics mental health test can give you insight into your symptoms, and it might just be the first step toward getting the help you need. If you believe that you may have OCD, you can also find an obsessive-compulsive disorder test by visiting our home page.

Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics Bipolar disorder test.