Do I Have Bipolar Disorder or ADHD?

The similarities between bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) confuse both sufferers and physicians alike. Notable differences in the moods of people with these problems give medical professionals the ability to zero in on more accurate diagnoses. With an accurate diagnosis, patients can effectively treat their symptoms and begin living a normal life again.

Do Bipolar Disorder and ADHD Often Occur Together?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are distinct symptoms for each problem, but they commonly co-occur with other, which makes it difficult to pinpoint a single issue. To further complicate a diagnosis, individuals with ADHD and bipolar disorder may act in similar ways.

To reveal this, in the September/October 2000 issue of ADDvance Magazine, Dr. Bill Dodson, a psychiatrist in Denver, discusses that the following symptoms occur in patients with both bipolar disorder as well as ADHD:

  • Mood instability
  • Energy boosts, restlessness
  • Talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsivity
  • Impatience
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Lifelong impairment
  • Strong genetic clustering

If you see these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, bipolar disorder or ADHD may be the cause.

How to Distinguish Bipolar Disorder from ADHD

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience mood shifts that may be unrelated to daily events. For instance, for no apparent reason they may shift between moods, going from periods of high energy (mania) to periods of low energy (depression). In contrast, individuals with ADHD are passionate and intense, but react to changes in their environment. The following six characteristics can be used to tell bipolar disorder apart from ADHD:

  • Individuals with ADHD experience symptoms during childhood, usually before age seven, while bipolar symptoms usually occur in early adulthood
  • ADHD symptoms are always present, while bipolar symptoms appear in episodes
  • ADHD moods are appropriate to an environmental trigger, while bipolar moods may not be related to the trigger
  • ADHD mood outbursts are over in a short duration, while bipolar mood shifts may take hours or days to change
  • ADHD mood shifts may rapidly change during the day. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an individual must have at least four shifts from high to low in a single year.
  • Individuals with either disorder usually have family members with the same problem. Therefore, having a relative with either issue makes you more likely to develop that same issue.

If you think you struggle with either of these problems, get help today to begin addressing your symptoms.