Trauma and Schizophrenia
How to Overcome Challenges

Bipolar Disorder and Trauma

I'm reading articles on the major mental illnesses and how they may be the result of trauma rather than a biological disorder.  The article regards and article by Dr. Benjamin Levy, "The Broad Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder and Disorders of Psychological Trauma - Time-Limited to Life-Long Need for Mood Stabilizers".  In short, why treating the trauma resolves the patient's need for medication for the rest of their life.

Dr. Levy writes, "While bipolar disorder is generally thought of as a life-long illness, naturalistic studies report that some patients have a self-limtited course."  He adds that "in some of these patients, the bipolar disorder has a course that mirrors the recovery from the disorder of psychological trauma.  This notion that Bipolar Disorder may have a self-limiting course is not usually presented to patients.  They are typically told they have a "biological" disorder which will require life-long medication maintenance and that has a poor prognosis. 

Mood Swings vs. Mood Episodes

Dr. Levy does a wonderful service to the psychological community of distinguishing between "mood swings" and "mood episodes" and posits that this distinction "has everything to do with recommending the right treatment".  He states, "the 'mood swings' of trauma disorders are treated primarily with psychotherapy, with psychopharmacology added for symptom relief.  The 'mood episodes' of bipolar disorder are treated primarily with psychopharmacology, with psychotherapy added to help the person adopt to and manage a chronic mental illness."  Dr. Levy then presents three case studies of patients who were originally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder who were able to discontinue their mood stabilizers after addressing the original trauma. 

I have seen this repeatedly.  Clients who are very emotionally reactive when triggered by events in their present to remember trauma from their past are labeled as having "mood swings" and put on a mood stabilizer.  But their "mood swings" are immediate, intense and transitory, usually not lasting more than a few minutes to a few hours.  They also typically induce great anxiety and sometimes pure terror, not the euphoria for which mania is known.  This is a different pattern from the gradual descent into depression or ascent into mania which lasts for weeks or months at a time and which Dr. Levy describes more accurately as "mood episodes". 

I believe we are going to see greater awareness of the effects of trauma and less emphasis on the "biological" emphasis when treating mental illness in the near future.  If you would like to see what mania looks like I recommend the film, "Mr. Jones" with Richard Gere.  Though not an impeccable portrayal of mania, Gere does a fairly accurate job of capturing mania with grandiosity and thought disorder.

You may also want to read, "Mood Swings are Normal" and "Bipolar vs. Borderline vs. Histrionic vs. PTSD" on this blog . 


Levy, B. F. (2007). The broad relationship between bipolar disorder and disorders of psychological trauma-time-limited to life-long need for mood stabilizers. Journal of Psychological Trauma, 6(2/​3), 99-125.


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Kelly Walker

Can you please tell me how to access the article on Bipolar and Trauma by Dr. Benjamin Levy?

Thank you!



Sure! Take the reference information at the bottom of the article to any library and they should be able to pull it up in the periodical guide. If they don't have the article, they should be able to request it through an Interlibrary Loan at no charge or at a very small charge for the copying fee.

Paul Bright

Excellent work. I'll include it in my carnival!

Paul Bright


Thank Paul. What a great blog you've created for the loved ones of people struggling with Bipolar Disorder. The description of mania from the patient's perspective:

is really interesting and valuable information for family members who have never experienced mania.

Nice job!

Paul Bright

This is now a feature post in my blog carnival. Thanks for your contribution!
Paul Bright


Wow, thank you for that honor Paul. That is a great website.


another perspective on bipolar is actually that a precursor to a spiritual awakening and that mania and depression are part of a cycle of the body cleansing itself and then "tapping into the universe"
The mania can actually be used creatively and indeed, many highly creative people also have bipolar disorder. my advice... CHANGE YOUR DIET...
DO THIS BEFORE YOU TAKE ANY MEDICATIONS. THE MEDICATIONS HAVE SERIOUS LONGTERM SIDE EFFECTS AND ARE TOXIC. ONCE YOU START WITH THEM IT WILL BE VERY HARD TO MANAGE WITHOUT. that being said, some people have severe enough symptoms that they need the medication. I had intense rage and suicidal impulses that eventually resolved and gave way, revealing immense trauma that had been unaddressed. But the creative and emotional highs from my trip high and low are still with me and I would never choose to live my life not having known those states of being. Maybe god is more than just good things... Meaning, the emotional extremes may just be "his " way of being within you... So it's up to you to remain on I had to explain the mania is say it's isnt grandiosity at all but intense love... Wanting to know the entirety of life and not wanting to be spared any inch of knowing...the heart has to learn to take it one day at a time... It can't just jump into infinity like that as a routine way of being...

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