Bipolar vs. ADHD vs. Both

I came across this article awhile back and found it interesting.

The Physician’s Guide for Distinguishing Bipolar Disorder from ADHD

It shed some light for me as to why they gave Little Bear the Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder diagnosis rather than Bipolar to start with. It’s a precautionary measure and even though I have Bipolar, I have two siblings with ADHD hyperactive type.

Reading this article, I’ve come to realize that Little Bear is presenting symptoms of both disorders – which is reflected and noted in his neuropsych eval. So they are observing him for both. It won’t be until the teen years when the more classic symptoms of Bipolar start to become clear that anyone can be sure.

The tricky part here is the treatment options in the way of meds. Stimulants are used to treat ADHD and those tend to make the Bipolar symptoms worse, BUT if you leave the ADHD untreated, the Bipolar symptoms could be aggravated anyway. So some individuals who have both disorders do get better while on a stimulant because the ADHD isn’t fueling the hypomania/mania at that point. Like all meds, it’s a gamble and a bit of trial and error.

Caffeine is supposed to be a no-no for those with Bipolar. I’m not disputing that, but I’m not running around off the rails even though I drink far above the upper limit of caffeine intake normal people should be drinking. My siblings seem unfazed by caffeine as well.

You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I have ADHD of some kind when my neuropsych comes around. Probably not the hyperactive type though. I suspect if I did, it would be more along the lines of attentive deficit for me. Focus and concentration has always been an issue for me unless I’m hypomanic – then it’s all about “the project” for me.

Who knows? But that’s the point of getting a neuropsych eval done. To find out, clear things up, and know for sure what’s going on.

22 thoughts on “Bipolar vs. ADHD vs. Both

    • Honestly, I don’t know much about it myself. The people that evaluated my son said it is a possibility that he has both. This is why I shared the article I found about it.

      What I do know is whatever the disorder(s) a person may have, they need to want to comply with a care plan of some kind in order for it to have any chance to work.

      So if your mother doesn’t want to take meds, you can’t make her unless there is a court order in place or you are appointed as her legal guardian. And those are hard to get. You’ll need to either prove to the court that she is a clear and present danger to herself and/or others, or that she is no longer capable of caring for herself. I’ve never had to do either, so I don’t know how to go about doing it.

      The only other thing you can do is work with her to develop a care plan that she is happy with and will follow. And as long as she is legally deemed fit to make her own medical decisions, she has the final say in what that care plan looks like.

      The thing to understand here is that medication isn’t a magic bullet. And sometimes the process of finding the right mix of meds for Bipolar is as bad or worse than the illness itself. Many of these psych meds impair the functioning of organs, like the liver and kidneys – if not outright wreck them. There is a reason why many of these meds require blood work to be done on a regular basis. Every one of these psych meds come with potent side effects. Your mother may have a valid reason for not taking them.

      My thoughts on this are if she isn’t a danger to anyone, including herself, and doesn’t want to take meds for whatever reason seek a different care plan with her. The reason I say this is as someone who takes psych meds I can tell you up front that it doesn’t make the illness go away. I’ve been given meds that made my Bipolar worse. I don’t want you to go into this thinking that by taking a pill your mother will be all better. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I wished it did.

      What’s worked for me is a combination of therapies along with the medication. To be honest, I found that cognitive and behavioral therapy to be the most helpful, but it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work and effort.

      I realize this all sounds like “doom and gloom” and I’m sorry for that. But until you understand why she isn’t taking meds, you’re not going to get anywhere with her on that.

      If your mother has signed a medical disclosure waiver for you, (in the US it’s called HIPPA) you could try talking to her doctor about it.

      • Thanks for this. Her why is because she is sort of in denial. One time she actually articulated that she might be bipolar. Secondly my opinion she couldn’t take the stigma or title of it and taking medicine is a huge problem. She prides herself on the fact that she doesn’t even take aspirin. She and my daddy have been married for 45 years. 🙃🙂🙃🙂. Thanks for your words

      • Someone in denial of their illness are in the same boat as an alcoholic that denies there’s a problem. People like this aren’t going to seek treatment and if treatment is forced onto them, it’s not typically successful.

        The stigma is real sadly. It’s why I choose not to reveal my identity online for now.

      • I’m not sure if this is Bipolar – or rather, more specifically, I don’t think this is Bipolar all by itself. Most of the people I have met that behave this way aren’t Bipolar.

        Mind you, I’m no expert nor am I a professional of any kind.

        But to me this is someone that appears entirely too focused on abusing you, which isn’t necessarily something that results from any kind of disorder. Some people are just abusive assholes. 🙁 I don’t think there is a diagnosis for that. And from what I’ve seen people who are abusive never change.

        You might find this website helpful in terms of coping with your mother:

        It does focus on personality disorders, but I think their advice is solid and applies to all types of people. I found the section on boundaries very enlightening and helpful.

      • It could be. Like I said, I’m not an expert in this. Not by a long shot. But it’s clear to me that this is a challenging relationship for you.

  1. I have bipolar disorder but I’m also 100% sure I have ADHD. But apparently they do cross paths and symptoms overlap. Bipolar disorder has similar symptoms of ADHD. I understand the struggle and I, myself, am not sure what to do about it.

    • The best advice I can give is to speak to a professional in psych that specializes in differentiating between disorders. In the US, this would be a neuropsychologist. These individuals don’t provide treatments. They only diagnosis at a very in-depth level.

  2. Pingback: Do You have a Child with Bipolar? | The Art of Chaos

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