Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder – Cousins?

Posted on by Natasha Tracy

Bipolar disorder has an approximate prevalence in society of 1% and obsessive-compulsive disorder has an approximate lifetime prevalence of 2.5%. When you put those two numbers together, you should have a very small population that has both bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, this turns out not to be the case. Actually, according to a recent study, 50% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder also have a depressive disorder and 10% have bipolar disorder.

In short, if you happen to have both disorders, you’re not alone.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that was once thought quite rare; however, now we see it manifest in both children and adults. OCD can range in severity from minor to severe and crippling.

OCD is, “. . . characterized by distressing intrusive obsessive thoughts and/or repetitive compulsive actions (which may be physical or mental acts) that are clinically significant.”

The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) has criteria for both obsession and compulsion.

Obsession is not psychosis and is defined by:

Compulsion is defined by:

DSM-TR-IV definitions taken from Medscape Reference.

People with OCD recognize that their obsessions or compulsions aren’t reasonable, but unfortunately, that alone is not enough to stop the obsessions or compulsions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar

In the study on the impact of affective disorders (like bipolar disorder) on OCD, it was found that:

Another study found that the comorbidity of OCD and bipolar disorder is correlated to familial presence of the disorders and people with both disorders have:

Diagnosing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

All this is a long-winded way of saying that correct diagnosis of both disorders is important in order to properly treat the patient. If only one disorder is treated, treatment is much less likely to be successful. So if you find you have obsessive-compulsive leanings (or any other anxiety disorder symptoms), be sure to discuss it with your doctor because it could be making your bipolar worse and he can’t help you if he doesn’t know you have a problem.