Bipolar disorder and ADHD are two different mental health conditions that have some overlapping symptoms. This can make it hard to tell them apart. Doctors call this a “differential diagnosis.”

To make a differential diagnosis, doctors will look at your medical history, your symptoms, and your family history. They will also do some tests, like blood tests and brain scans.

Some of the symptoms that bipolar disorder and ADHD have in common are:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Being restless or fidgety
  • Talking too much
  • Having trouble controlling your emotions
  • Making impulsive decisions

But there are also some important differences between the two conditions. For example, bipolar disorder usually comes in cycles of mania (a period of high energy and activity) and depression (a period of low energy and sadness). ADHD does not have these cycles.

Another difference is that bipolar disorder often starts in the teen years or early adulthood, while ADHD can start in childhood.

If you think you might have bipolar disorder or ADHD, it is important to see a doctor. They can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

Here are some tips for talking to your doctor about your symptoms:

  • Be prepared to talk about your symptoms. Write them down before you go to the doctor’s office.
  • Tell your doctor about your family history of mental health conditions.
  • Be honest with your doctor about your drug use.

If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder or ADHD, there are many treatments available. These treatments can help you manage your symptoms and live a normal life.

Here are some of the treatments for bipolar disorder and ADHD:

  • Medication
  • Therapy
  • Lifestyle changes

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder or ADHD, please know that you are not alone. There are many people who understand what you are going 

I have directly experienced the confusion between ADHD and Bipolar.  A lot of friends would say to me that I must have ADHD because I was so figetiy, and because of was always skipping from one project to another.  I was seeing a high-level psychologist in Maryland because of a marital separation and impending divorce.  However, this doctoral level psychologist who had run major agencies for the US Government in nearby Washington, DC also happened to be a recognized exert in ADHD.  I told him what my friends said, so he offered to test me with some sophisticated equipment.

After finishing the tests, he said I definitely did not have ADHD.  My symptoms of distraction were due to my bipolar disorder.

I have always called bipolar disorder the ‘mockingbird’ illness because it can mock and imitate many other psychiatric disorderes, like paranoia, schizophrenia, ADHD and attention deficit disorder.  Don’t assure you have ADHD just because the symptoms seem to fit.  The worst result is that some doctor will prescribe you ritilin, or some stimulant for ADHD, which is likely to bring on mania and make bipolar more difficult to control.

Derived from “ADHD, Bipolar and Substance Use: Translating Data from Clinical Data into Your Practice.” presented by David Goodman, M.D., FAPA at the APSARD 2023 Annual Conference.

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