Bipolar and ADHD can be confused for each other because some of the symptoms of each condition appear to overlap. Those with ADHD are also more likely to suffer from other illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
In addition, it is possible to suffer from both conditions, which can make diagnosis trickier.
However, there are a few dramatic differences between the two conditions. For example, ADHD is classified a neurobiological disorder, while Bipolar is classified as a mood disorder.
In addition, they are each unique in
terms of diagnostic criteria and treatment. As a result, it is important to understand the ADHD bipolar disorder connection, and learn how to distinguish between the two conditions.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It primarily affects children but can continue into adulthood.
ADHD symptoms include challenges focusing, excessive motion, excessive talkativeness, and engaging in risky behaviors with little consideration of the consequences.
Suffers of ADHD often experience poor school and work performance, and have challenges maintaining healthy social relationships including peer friendships and romantic relationships.
Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depression, is characterized by mood swings, ranging from high energy and active episodes known as manic episodes, to feelings of depression (depressive episodes). These episodes can last for weeks or months, and cycle back and forth over time.
In addition, the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorizes different types of Bipolar disorder: Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified).
Bipolar 1 is characterized by the occurrence of one or more manic or mixed episodes (mania and depression), or one or more depressive episodes, that last at least seven days or more.
The diagnostic features of Bipolar 2 are similar, but the pivotal difference is that in Bipolar 2 the patient never reaches a full-on manic episode. A less severe version of manic episodes, called hypomania, is featured. Bipolar II generally consists of hypomanic episodes with episodes of depression.
Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder in which the symptoms are the same as above, but less severe. Unlike Bipolar 1 and 2, Cyclothymic disorder does not include the full-blown manic or major depressive episodes.
Finally, a diagnosis of Bipolar NOS is given when the bipolar symptoms do not clearly fall into the other categories.
The treatment for bipolar disorder is typically antidepressants or antipsychotic medications, depending on the type of bipolar. Therapy can also be helpful.
Bipolar and ADHD can be confused because the hyperactive features of ADHD can be confused with the manic episodes of Bipolar disorders. Similarly, the inattention and lack of focus during a depressive episode can be confused with the ADHD symptom of inattention.
When In Doubt Seek A Professional Assessment
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from ADHD or Bipolar, seek an assessment by a mental health provider such as a psychiatrist or psychologist who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of Bipolar and ADHD.