Panic Disorder and Mood Disorders

Common Co-Occurring Conditions

If you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, you may also be at risk for developing a co-occurring mood disorder. These related conditions are characterized by fluctuations in mood, which can vary from feeling extremely down and hopeless to a sense of high energy and agitation. Having panic disorder can be challenging enough, but can be even more difficult to cope with if you are also dealing with a mood disorder.

Different mood disorders can share in some symptoms similar to panic disorder, such as increased anxiety and irritability. However, these disorders are considered separate conditions with their own set of diagnostic criteria. Two of the most common mood disorders that co-occur with panic disorder include major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.

Listed here is an overview of these two common co-occurring conditions:

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder, simply known as depression, is a mood disorder marked by feelings of sadness that impairs one’s quality of life. Depression is not the same as occasionally feeling down or “blue” when faced with difficult times in life. Rather, this condition can’t just be “shaken off” and negatively impacts one occupationally, emotionally, and socially.

The symptoms of depression can vary from person-to-person. Some of the most common symptoms include a depressed mood, changes in weight and appetite, lack of interest in leisure activities, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, frequent feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts.

To be diagnosed with this condition, at least five symptoms of depression must occur within a two-week period. 

It is possible to be experiencing both the symptoms of panic disorder and depression. Research studies have determined that close to half of panic disorder sufferers will also meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder within their lifetime.

The cause of co-occurring panic disorder and depression are unknown, but treatment options are available for both conditions. 

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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also know as manic depression, is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme fluctuations in mood. These shifts in mood can range from feelings of fatigue, sadness, and lack of concentration to increased energy, extreme enthusiasm, and erratic behaviors. People with bipolar disorder have episodes of both depression and mania.

The main symptoms of bipolar disorder include symptoms of depression, as listed above. Additionally, bipolar disorder sufferers also show symptoms of mania. Common symptoms of mania include restlessness, needing little sleep, racing thoughts, impulsivity, and risky behaviors. While in a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may feel no need to sleep and may participate in reckless activities that can cause him irreparable harm.

Studies have found that panic disorder has a high co-occurrence with bipolar disorder. Both conditions share in having a variety of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms. However, the traits of panic disorder revolve more around fear, apprehension, anxiety, and panic attacks.

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Getting a Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

Consult your doctor or mental health specialist if you are concerned that you are experiencing a co-occurring mood disorder. If you diagnosed with panic disorder and a mood disorder, your provider will be able to get you started on treatment that can address both issues. She will likely get you started on a treatment plan that involves medication and psychotherapy.

A combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common choice for those with panic disorder and depression. CBT is one form of psychotherapy that has been found to be effective in treating both mood and anxiety disorders. Through CBT, you may be able to work through difficult thoughts that are contributing to your mood and anxiety. Additionally, CBT can help you shift towards healthier behaviors to improve your overall functioning. 

Seek help immediately if you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts or behaviors. You can find immediate help 24-hours a day by calling 911 or a suicide prevention hotline. United States residents can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (1-800-273-8255.


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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