If you think you may be living with ADHD, bipolar disorder, or both, you’re not alone. There can be some overlap between the two conditions.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that there are times when you feel more energetic than usual, and it comes out in your speech and your body movements.
Maybe you’ve noticed that your sleep patterns can be different from those around you, or sometimes it’s hard to remember information that you learn.
You may be wondering which diagnosis, if any, fits you and your symptoms. Understanding the similarities and differences between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder can help you find the treatment plan that’s right for you, if needed.
Research shows that up to
One study showed that this dual diagnosis is more common in men with bipolar I disorder.
Your genetics certainly appear to play a role, according to several studies. More specifically, it may come down to how your brain was formed.
- emotional regulation
- executive functioning
- motor function
Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed by the time you’re in your late 20s, but not always. Research shows that bipolar disorder can onset, on average, 4 years earlier when ADHD is also present.
To receive a diagnosis of one, or both, conditions, a healthcare or mental health professional will likely work with you over several sessions. They may ask about:
- your symptoms
- when your symptoms started
- family medical history
- personal medical history
From there, they will conduct a psychological evaluation to see if you meet both sets of criteria based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).
The main difference between the two is that ADHD creates more consistent patterns of behavior, while bipolar disorder can occur in cycles, with a manic episode mimicking many of the symptoms of ADHD.
There are, however, many other differences and similarities.
|Often diagnosed in childhood||Often diagnosed in adulthood|
|Impacts attention and behavior||Impacts mood and behavior|
|Chronic or persistent||Episodic|
|Increased energy||Increased energy during mania|
|Easily distracted||Easily distracted during mania|
|Talking too much or too fast||Pressured speech during mania|
|Impulsivity||Impulsivity during mania|
|Motor hyperactivity or agitation (fidgeting)||Motor hyperactivity during mania|
|Lower self-esteem||Increased self-esteem during mania|
|Consistent sleep disturbances||Decreased need for sleep during mania|
|Difficulty with memory||Difficulty with memory|
If you‘re diagnosed with both conditions, there is hope. By working with a healthcare or mental health professional, you can learn to manage your symptoms.
For these reasons, it might be a good idea to work with a mental health professional. They can help you identify harmful thought patterns and how they relate to your behavior, as well as help you develop coping strategies for difficult moments.
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- communication-focused therapy (CFT)
If you‘re looking for professional support, you can find a mental health professional using our search tools.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available right now. You can:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Text “HOME“ to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- For people facing mental or substance use disorders, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-4357.
If you‘re not in the United States, you can find support in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
Research shows that those who live with both ADHD and bipolar disorder have an increased chance of conflict in the family. It might be helpful to work with a family or group therapist to help address any challenges that arrive in your home dynamic.
ADHD is treated with medications that stimulate the central nervous system. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is often treated with antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or benzodiazepines.
A mental health professional may spend some time working with you to find the right combination of medications. The chance of causing a manic episode is reduced when you’re taking a stimulant and mood stabilizer together.
A 2016 study found that methylphenidate (Ritalin) was a safe medication for those with both ADHD and bipolar disorder.
There are many ways to support your wellness journey. Some ideas include:
- developing a meditation practice
- doing stress-relieving hobbies and activities
- eating a balanced diet of nutritious foods
- exercising moderately at least 5 days a week
- getting 8 hours of sleep per night
- journaling about your feelings
- spending time in nature every day
ADHD and bipolar disorder often show up together, even though researchers still aren‘t sure exactly why this is.
For some, it can be difficult to receive one diagnosis, let alone two, but remember that you’re not alone and there is support available.
It may take some time, but it’s possible to find the right combination of therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes to help you manage your symptoms.
You may also find it helpful to join a support group, like: