Bipolar and ADHD
Bipolar and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are both long-term health conditions that can significantly impact someone’s life if they are not recognized and treated accordingly.
Whilst they are two very separate conditions, it can be safely assumed that there is some diagnostic crossover between these two disorders. It is not unknown for one disorder to be misdiagnosed as the other, and it is definitely a possibility that the two can be diagnosed concurrently. Rates of ADHD diagnoses are more common than bipolar — you are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than bipolar — however is it not uncommon to be diagnosed with both disorders.
The most important difference to note between the two disorders is the type of condition they fall under — bipolar is a mood disorder, and ADHD is a behavioral disorder. This categorization is vital in helping to recognize and identify the features of each condition in order to distinguish one from the other.
Bipolar disorder is recognizable by dramatic shifts and variations in the mood of the person diagnosed. There are two main mood types that are shown across the bipolar spectrum; depression and hypomania. A depressive episode is usually visible by periods of low mood, hopelessness, and a lack of motivation, whereas a person going through a hypomanic episode would show signs of elevated mood, disturbed sleep, and may indulge in risky or impulsive behaviour such as overspending, increased sexual activity, or drinking and taking street drugs.
With certain types of bipolar, especially type I there is the risk of a hypomanic episode escalating into a full manic episode. A full manic episode is a far more intense version of hypomania, and often causes the person diagnosed significant distress. There is the possibility that psychotic symptoms may emerge during a full manic episode, and this may result in the sufferer needing to enter inpatient care for a while.
Some people who have bipolar disorder may also experience mixed episodes that feature certain aspects of both mania and depression at the same time such as low mood accompanied by racing thoughts and irritability.
Two main types of symptom — inattention and hyperactivity, identify ADHD. The inattention cluster of symptoms includes:
- A lack of attention to detail and careless mistakes
- Difficulty following through on instructed tasks
- Losing things
- Difficulty listening and following instructions
- Talking excessively (e.g. blurting out the answer to a question/an inability to wait their turn)
- Behaviour that could be described as constantly ‘on the go’
For ADHD to be diagnosed symptoms must be present in two or more settings (such as school or work and home) for a minimum of sox months.