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Connection between Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Pain | Total Mental Wellness

Updated: Apr 17



Pain is a common symptom for people with bipolar disorder. The mental pain that comes with depression can be exhausting. Like others, people with bipolar disorder also encounter physical pain. These patients are not exempt from broken ankles, sore muscles, and stubbed toes because they encounter emotional pain frequently. By comparison, patients having bipolar disorder experience some kinds of chronic pain more than the general population. So, it can be said that bipolar disorder and chronic pain are connected. Here are 3 particular kinds of chronic pain that seem more often in people having bipolar disorder:


1. Arthritis


Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis carry the risk of bipolar disorder. Both these result in stiffness, severe swelling, and sometimes bone spurs or bone loss. Being an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis can also impact some body parts other than joints incorporating bone marrow, nerves, kidneys, heart, lungs, and eyes.


According to studies, people with rheumatoid arthritis have more chances of having bipolar disorder than the general public. Maybe the inflammation in arthritis aggravates bipolar disorder. Inflammation can lead to increases in dopamine and serotonin, which as a result can trigger psychosis or mood episodes in bipolar disorder.


2. Fibromyalgia


This occurs in almost 5% of the population and is known as chronic musculoskeletal pain. Sometimes patients encounter dull muscle pains all over the body. It can interrupt sleep and is accompanied by mood and memory problems. Mood problems are common in fibromyalgia because nearly 25% of people having this pain also have concurrent bipolar disorder.


It’s tough to treat a patient having both fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. Fibromyalgia is sometimes treated with SSRIs (Selected Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These medications calm the overactive neurotransmitters that indicate pain. They can also reduce manic symptoms in bipolar disorder patients. Other treatment choices incorporate pregabalin, gabapentin, and anti-seizure medications. Gabapentin is commonly used as a mood stabilizer in bipolar disorder.


3. Migraines


These severe headaches usually occur on the head’s one side. Vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and visual changes like seeing light’s flashes accompany this pain. Sometimes migraines are anticipated by symptoms like mood changes, constipation, congestion, and neck stiffness incorporating euphoria and depression.

25% of bipolar patients suffer from migraines. People suffering from both migraines and bipolar disorder sometimes have drug-resistant, comorbid pain disorder, and rapid cycling symptoms. Medicines like valproate also are seen for treating both migraines and mood problems. Nevertheless, the bipolar disorder should be pondered the main ailment and treated before pondering treatment for migraines.


Closing Thoughts


It is evident that chronic pain is hard to manage even if an individual is healthy. Adding pain to an exhausting ailment like bipolar disorder can make people even more fickle. Treatment of chronic pain can also cause dependency on drugs, which is uncertain since the patients of bipolar disorder can have issues with substance abuse seven times more. Sometimes pain also causes depression and isolation, which again shows the connection between bipolar disorder and chronic pain.

In the case of the aforesaid two conditions, you are recommended to see physicians or mental health professionals for an exact diagnosis and treatment options.

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Audrey La Noce D.O.

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