Bipolar Mood Disorder and ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD and bipolar mood disorder are often confused — and often coexist in the same person. How to make the distinction and treat BMD along with ADHD.

BMD Resources

Books About Bipolar Disorder

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide
by David J. Miklowitz
(The Guilford Press, 2002)

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder
by Julie A Fast, John Preston
(Warner Wellness, 2006)

More about bipolar disorder

Symptoms of Bipolar Mood Disorder (BMD)

  • Intense feelings of happiness or sadness
  • Days or weeks of high-energy episodes (called mania) yielding to, over the course of hours or days, low-energy episodes (depression)
  • Mood changes are unconnected to life events

Symptoms of ADHD

  • Inattention
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Physical restlessness



20 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD also develop bipolar mood disorder

Since ADHD and BMD share many symptoms — talkativeness, impatience, bursts of energy and restlessness, mood instability — distinguishing between the two can be difficult.

ADHD is about 10 times more common than BMD in the general population.

Diagnosing BMD and ADHD

ADHD and BMD can be distinguished from each other based on six factors:

1. ADHD symptoms are apparent by age seven. People who develop BMD typically have their first episode after age 18.

2. ADHD is chronic and always present. BMD episodes alternate with normal mood levels.

3. With ADHD, moods and emotions are tied to events, or triggers, in their lives. With BMD, mood shifts come and go without connection to life events.

4. With ADHD, mood shifts feel instantaneous. With BMD, mood shifts take hours or days to move from one state to another. 5. ADHD mood shifts are measured in hours. BMD mood shifts are often sustained for at least two weeks.

6. Both disorders run in families, but those with BMD are likely to have fewer genetic connections.

Treating BMD and ADHD

  • It’s important to diagnose and treat BMD first, since ADHD treatment may trigger mania or worsen bipolar mood disorder
  • Treatment is most effective when each disorder is dealt with independently, but in a coordinated manner
  • Many people diagnosed with both disorders attain mood stability and lead productive lives.

TAGS: Comorbid Conditions with ADD, Bipolar Disorder

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