Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition. As the name implies, it can impact a person’s ability to stay calm and focused. Bipolar, on the other hand, is a mood-based disorder. Its hallmark involves manic and depressive episodes. They sound easily distinguishable, right? Not so fast.
You see when a person with Bipolar Disorder is in the midst of a manic phase, they often display symptoms that appear to be textbook ADHD. They seem restless, easily distracted, and impulsive. This intersection can make diagnosis a challenge. On top of that, some people have bipolar and ADHD at the same time.
Obviously, the Right Mental Health Diagnosis is Crucial
If a person is assessed during a manic episode of bipolar, the presence of ADHD may go undetected. When assessed during a depressive episode, the presence of bipolar could go undetected. Either of these outcomes is not what anyone wants.
There is, however, one factor that can make such a distinction when dealing with children. Generally speaking, the onset of bipolar is when a person is in their 20s. ADHD, on the other hand, is frequently diagnosed in childhood. This scenario aside, a practitioner must keep in mind that:
There is a likelihood that ADHD-like symptoms that come and go like a cycle are actually signs of a bipolar manic episode.
Someone with bipolar who shows symptoms of ADHD outside the parameters of depressive or manic episodes may also have ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms in Adults
- Unable to stay organized or focus on a task
- Restlessness, frustration, and impulsivity
- Lack of time management skills
- Inability to make a decision and/or making decisions impulsively
- Easily overwhelmed by stress
Bipolar Symptoms in Adults
During a manic episode:
- Doing everything at high intensity and high speed
- Not needing to sleep
- Thoughts are racing
- Easily distracted
- Impulsive behavior/engaging in risky behaviors
- Inflated sense of self
During a depressive episode:
- Feeling sad, depressed, and worthless for most of the day, every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed (including sex)
- Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
- Inability to concentrate
- Weight fluctuations
- Thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
Some of the Differences Between Bipolar Disorder and ADHD
Again, people are born with ADHD and are often diagnosed when they reach school age. Bipolar does not appear until later.
With bipolar, moods can last for months. Those with ADHD can shift between mood extremes in a matter of minutes and then switch right back.
ADHD mood swings are triggered by visible events in their life. Mood changes for a person with bipolar are part of the illness and not influenced by something that happens on any given day.
When someone with ADHD breaks something, it’s almost always due to inattention. With bipolar, emotions like frustration and anger usually play a role.
What Your Doctor Will Need to Know about Your Symptoms
When you are being assessed, your doctor will want to rule out a wide range of other possible causes, e.g., anxiety disorders, substance abuse, medications, etc. They also need to keep open the possibility that people can have both bipolar and ADHD. Thus, it will help immensely if you can clarify the following:
- If the symptoms arose in childhood
- Environmental triggers and stressors in your life
- You’ve been diagnosed with other illnesses or disorders
- What, if any, medications do you take
- If ADHD-like symptoms are present when your mood is stable
- How your symptoms impact your daily life
Treatment for Your Mental Health Symptoms
Of course, each mental health disorder has its own treatment. Once a diagnosis has been made, such a plan can be put into place. This is a detailed and ongoing process. If any of the above resonates with you, please contact us to get scheduled with a mental health professional.
Begin Columbus, OH Counseling Today
Receiving the right support is important to ensure you are on the right road to recovery. Our team of caring therapists would be happy to offer support with assessments to help you better understand your symptoms. We offer in-person therapy in Columbus and online therapy across the state. You can start your therapy journey with Blue Boat Counseling by following these simple steps:
- Contact Blue Boat Counseling by using the button below
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Begin receiving the treatment you deserve!
Other Therapy Services Offered With Blue Boat Counseling
Our team at Blue Boat Counseling knows that you may be dealing with a variety of mental health concerns. This is why we are happy to offer mental health services including anxiety therapy, depression therapy, and military veteran therapy. We are also happy to offer teen and family therapy and online therapy across the state of Ohio. Visit our blog to learn more today for helpful info.