Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, affects individuals who have either directly experienced traumatic events, rape, combat, assaults, child abuse, or have witnessed them, and subsequently go on to manifest a number of symptoms. Elevated rates of PTSD exist in people with bipolar disorder, with women being at a higher risk then men.
The trauma may have been a single event or a series of things that occurred over a span of time, such as frequently happens with children in abusive households, prisoners of war, soldiers, and civilians in times of war.
So too do many people with bipolar disorder have experiences as a result of their illness that can be traumatizing, such as involuntary hospitalization on a locked ward, relapse, or being restrained by police, ambulance, or hospital personnel when in an agitated and manic state.
The onset of PTSD symptoms can occur immediately after the event or can be activated at some time in the future. Symptoms of PTSD can include generalized anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks, suicidal thought and behavior, hyper vigilance, an exaggerated startle response, insomnia, intense nightmares, and flashbacks of the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may also develop avoidant symptoms for things, people, etc. they relate to the traumatic event(s). Some people with PTSD describe symptoms of becoming emotionally numb and feeling as though they are not really present.
Treatment for people with both bipolar disorder and PTSD will likely involve both medication(s) and therapies targeted for symptoms of both conditions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is considered a first-line treatment for PTSD, may be especially useful, although it has not been specifically studied in individuals with both PTSD and bipolar disorder.