Question about ADHD vs. Bipolar….

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    • #115582


      For the last few months, I have been going through the process of being diagnosed for ADHD. Yesterday, I was informed by my brother (my only sibling) that he has just been diagnosed with Bipolar II. I’m wondering if these could be related, or if either one of us is being misdiagnosed, or if it’s common for siblings to have different diagnoses. Neither of our parents are diagnosed with any sort of mental illness, but I believe you could make a strong argument for my mom having ADHD. Mental illness also runs in my dad’s side of the family (although no one seems to want to acknowledge it.) I haven’t had a chance to talk to my brother about his diagnosis process…but here is what I’ve experienced the last few months:

      I’ve struggled with depression throughout my 20’s especially, but you could definitely make the argument that I had my first depressive episode my senior year of high school. My depression seems to come up during major transitions – whether it’s graduating from school, or even different “seasons” during my job that make me feel lots of stress/pressure (I teach band and have to participate in competitive jazz and marching band–it causes a tremendous amount of stress for me.) Personally, it makes total sense that my depression comes as a result of feeling intensely inadequate because I struggle with organization and small details. I am always trying to hide the silly mistakes I’ve made and experience a deep amount of shame as a result. A few months ago, I came across a self-screening for ADHD….and realized I answered yes to almost all the questions. This led me to bring it up to my therapist, who asked me some questions about my organization and then said that it makes total sense to her that I would have ADHD (I’ve seen her for almost two years) and she referred me to a psychologist.

      The psychologist interviewed me–asking about my childhood and going through the Connors Self-Assessment tool and the DSM-5 qualifications (this is what his report says.) After the interview, he had me complete a TOVA test. He said if the TOVA indicated an attention deficit, he would send a letter to my GP asking her to prescribe medication. He called me a few days later and said my score was “highly suggestive” of an attention deficit. So I saw my GP and she recommended I try Wellbutrin, because I was already taking a small dosage of Fluoxetine (her thought was to eventually eliminate the Fluoxetine, treating both depression and ADHD at once…) I felt much better as a person on the Wellbutrin – stable mood, less impulsive, etc. I had to return to the psychologist to re-take the TOVA after being on medication for a few weeks. He reported that my scores did not show a significant difference, and said it was because I was taking Wellbutrin alone. I saw my GP again and she actually showed me my TOVA scores. On the first test, I scored -5 (from what I’ve read, anything below 1 can indicate ADHD) and then after a month of Wellbutrin, I scored -3. I understood then where the psychologist was coming from — it didn’t help enough to pull me out of the woods, but my doctor and I decided it was in the right direction, so she increased my prescription to 300 mg of Wellbutrin. I’ve been on it for almost a week and am experiencing more side effects than 150–nausea/stomach ache, digestion problems, increased sensitivity (I cried for no reason yesterday) so I’m wondering if 300 mg is too strong and we might need to try 150 mg of Wellbutrin with a small dosage of a stimulant.

      After hearing about my brother’s diagnosis, I am wondering if there is a potential that either one of us have been misdiagnosed? I was a little unsure about the depth of the session with the psychologist and his reliance on the TOVA….but in reading his report to the doctor, it seems as though he was more considerate of my interview than I initially thought (he was dreadfully boring.) Should I call and ask to be considered for bipolar? (This seems extreme…as my symptoms of inattention started when I was a kid and I don’t know if I’ve experienced mania…but I have always had significant mood swings.) Or should I encourage my brother to see if ADHD could be a possibility for him?

      Any insight is appreciated!!

    • #115605

      I can say that there is a lot of mental disorders in my family. I had an aunt with schizophrenia, spent most of her life in mental hospital. Her son committed suicide when he was 21 years old. My other aunt had three children, two of them committed suicide, we think they were bipolar. I have ADHD and I have four kids that are ADHD. MY brother has had addiction problems most of his life. He recently went to rehab, got clean and was diagnosed with ADHD. He too had mood swings and the doctor said could be caused by anxiety. Not sure what they gave him but it has helped with that. The rest of us take Adderall and it has changed my life for the better. I knew I wasn’t dumb but felt like it in school. I could read, write, and was good at math. I just had problems reading what I read and remembering things. That caused problems in English and most of my classes. I had problems with relationships, organization, time management, ….. After I got diagnosed and medicated I was overwhelmed with emotions, the way I was thinking, I went back to school and made the deans list. The difference was like day and night. It was like my brain was in hibernation for years and woke up.
      To answer your question, it is possible that he could be bipolar and you ADHD but also you could also be both. Most people have more than one disorder. My psychiatrist has said to me several times that I am the only patient he has that is only ADHD. I have read many books and I love to read can’t get enough that says ADHD and bipolar have been misdiagnosed often. They mimic several signs of the same things. I hope you get all the answers you are looking for.

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