ADHD and Bipolar Symptoms and Signs. Differences Between ADHD vs Bipolar in Adults. Diagnosis & Treatment.

With appropriate diagnosis and management, many individuals with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder can lead fulfilling lives.

ADHD and Bipolar Disorder

In mental health, numerous conditions may share similar symptoms, leading to accurate diagnosis and treatment challenges. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Bipolar Disorder are distinct but frequently misunderstood conditions. Both affecting mood and behavior, these disorders can often present overlapping signs, making it crucial to differentiate between them for effective intervention.

Understanding the nuances between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder is paramount, as misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatments and potential complications. In this article, we delve into the key differences in symptoms and signs that can aid in distinguishing between these two conditions. By gaining insight into their unique characteristics, individuals, families, and healthcare professionals can make informed decisions and provide the most suitable care for those affected.

ADHD vs Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD:

  1. Inattention: Individuals with ADHD often struggle to sustain focus on tasks, have difficulty organizing activities, and may frequently lose things necessary for tasks or activities.
  2. Hyperactivity: Hyperactivity in ADHD includes fidgeting, restlessness, and an inability to remain seated when expected.
  3. Impulsivity: Impulsive behaviors, such as blurting out answers, interrupting others, and difficulty awaiting one’s turn, are common in ADHD.
  4. Forgetfulness: People with ADHD might forget daily responsibilities, appointments, or obligations.
  5. Lack of attention to detail: Individuals may make careless mistakes in schoolwork or work tasks and have difficulty following instructions.
  6. Difficulty completing tasks: Starting tasks but not finishing them is a common challenge for those with ADHD.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

  1. Mood swings: Bipolar Disorder is characterized by intense mood changes, including periods of mania (elevated mood and excessive energy) and depression (profound sadness and lack of energy).
  2. Manic symptoms: During manic episodes, individuals may experience heightened self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, rapid speech, increased goal-directed activities, and impulsivity.
  3. Depressive symptoms: Depressive episodes involve feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or weight, and thoughts of death or suicide.
  4. Impaired judgment: During manic phases, individuals may engage in reckless behaviors with little regard for consequences.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation: Agitation involves restlessness and increased activity, while retardation refers to slowed movements and speech during depressive episodes.
  6. Mixed features: Some individuals may experience both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously or in rapid alternation.

ADHD and Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet

Bipolar Disorder:

  • Mood Episodes: Characterized by distinct episodes of mania/hypomania and depression.
  • Duration: Mood episodes can last for days, weeks, or months.
  • Triggers: Episodes can occur without external triggers, and mood shifts are often unrelated to specific events.
  • Self-Image: Individuals typically have a stable sense of self and identity.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsive behaviors may occur during manic episodes.
  • Treatment: Mood-stabilizing medications are often prescribed, along with psychotherapy.

Types of bipolar disorder:

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including:

  • Bipolar I disorder: Characterized by manic episodes lasting at least seven days or severe manic symptoms requiring immediate hospitalization.
  • Bipolar II disorder: Involves a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not full-blown mania.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Marked by numerous periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms that last for at least two years (one year for children and adolescents).


  • Genetics: Family history of Bipolar Disorder can increase susceptibility.
  • Neurobiological factors: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine may contribute.
  • Environmental triggers: Stressful life events can impact the onset and severity of the disorder.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Diagnosis requires a psychiatric evaluation, considering the frequency and intensity of mood episodes.
  • Treatment typically involves mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments.

Coexistence and Misdiagnosis:

  • Individuals can have both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder (comorbidity), making accurate diagnosis challenging.
  • Misdiagnosis can occur due to overlapping symptoms, leading to inappropriate treatments and potential complications.

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ADHD and Bipolar Disorder Statistics

Mental health disorders, such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Bipolar Disorder, affect millions worldwide. These conditions can profoundly impact various aspects of life, from academic and professional performance to personal relationships and overall well-being. As the understanding and awareness of mental health continue to grow, so does the need to comprehend the statistical prevalence, demographic patterns, and associated challenges of ADHD and Bipolar Disorder.

Through a data-driven exploration of ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, we can foster a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those living with these conditions and identify potential areas for improved support, early intervention, and targeted treatment approaches.

Prevalence of ADHD:

  1. Worldwide Impact: ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders globally, affecting people of all ages. It is estimated that approximately 5-7% of children and adolescents, and 2-5% of adults, have ADHD.
  2. Gender Differences: Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. However, recent research suggests that ADHD is often underdiagnosed in girls, leading to potential disparities in accessing appropriate care.
  3. Persistence into Adulthood: Contrary to past beliefs, ADHD can persist into adulthood in about 60-80% of cases. Many individuals may continue to experience symptoms and face challenges related to attention and impulse control throughout their lives.

Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder:

  1. Global Burden: Bipolar Disorder is a severe mental health condition that affects millions worldwide. The prevalence varies by country, but it is estimated that around 1-2% of the global population is affected by Bipolar Disorder.
  2. Age of Onset: Bipolar Disorder often emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood, typically between the ages of 15 and 25. However, it can also develop in children and later in life.


The global prevalence of the bipolar disorder

Source: CDC

25 years

Bipolar disorder typically emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood

Source: NIMH


BPD is more commonly diagnosed in females

Source: NIH

ADHD vs Bipolar Disorder Comparison Table

Here is a comparison table highlighting some critical differences between ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and Bipolar Disorder in adults:

AspectADHDVS. Bipolar Disorder
DefinitionA mood disorder characterized by periods of mania and depressionSymptoms typically present in childhood persist into adulthood
Core SymptomsInattention, hyperactivity, impulsivityExtreme mood swings, mania, depression
Emotional SymptomsDifficulty regulating emotions, emotional labilityIntense emotions, irritability, sadness, euphoria
Attention DifficultiesEasily distracted, difficulty sustaining focusRacing thoughts, decreased concentration, excessive focus on certain tasks
Energy LevelsRestless, high physical energyPeriods of high energy during mania, low energy during depression
Sleep PatternsDifficulties with sleep, insomniaDecreased need for sleep during manic episodes, disturbed sleep during depression
ImpulsivityImpulsive actions, difficulty inhibiting responsesImpulsive behavior during manic episodes
Treatment OptionsMedication (stimulants, non-stimulants), therapy, behavioral interventionsMood stabilizers, antipsychotics, therapy
OnsetSymptoms typically present in childhood, persist into adulthoodUsually diagnosed in late teens or early adulthood
PrevalenceAffects approximately 5-7% of adultsBipolar I: Approximately 1% of adults, Bipolar II: Approximately 1-2%
Risk FactorsGenetic factors, environmental factors, prenatal and perinatal risksGenetic factors, family history, stressful life events
This ADHD vs Bipolar disorders chart is a simplified comparison and should not substitute for proper diagnosis and evaluation by a healthcare professional.

The symptoms and experiences of individuals with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder can vary. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have ADHD or Bipolar Disorder, conferring with a healthcare provider for an evaluation and proper diagnosis is recommended.

ADHD and Bipolar Comorbidity: Navigating the Challenges of Dual Diagnosis

ADHD and Bipolar comorbidity, also known as co-occurring ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, refers to the simultaneous presence of both conditions in an individual. Comorbidity occurs when a person simultaneously has two or more medical or psychiatric disorders. In the case of ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, an individual may experience symptoms characteristic of both conditions, making diagnosis and treatment more complex.

Comorbidity is relatively common between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, and research suggests a higher likelihood of these conditions coexisting than chance. However, it is essential to note that having one condition does not necessarily mean the other is present as well, and comorbidity varies among individuals.

The overlapping symptoms of ADHD and Bipolar Disorder can lead to diagnostic challenges, as both conditions can manifest impulsivity, mood swings, and difficulties with attention and focus. Additionally, the presentation of these symptoms may change over time, further complicating the diagnosis.

Treatment for individuals with comorbid ADHD and Bipolar Disorder requires a comprehensive and individualized approach. It often involves a combination of therapies, including medication management, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. The goal is to address each condition’s unique challenges and improve overall functioning and quality of life for the individual.

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ADHD Misdiagnosed as Bipolar, Unraveling Overlapping Symptoms and Diagnostic Challenges

ADHD primarily involves inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, while Bipolar Disorder includes episodes of depression and periods of mania or hypomania. The nature of mood swings and the core symptoms distinguish these two conditions.
ADHD primarily involves inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, while Bipolar Disorder includes episodes of depression and periods of mania or hypomania. The nature of mood swings and the core symptoms distinguish these two conditions.

Misdiagnosing ADHD as Bipolar Disorder, or vice versa, is a significant concern in the field of mental health. Both conditions share certain symptoms, such as impulsivity, mood swings, and attention difficulties, leading to diagnostic challenges for healthcare professionals. This article delves into the complexities of distinguishing between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, exploring the similarities and differences in symptom presentation. By understanding the reasons behind misdiagnoses, the potential consequences, and the importance of accurate assessments, readers can gain insights into the complexities surrounding these two prevalent mental health conditions.

Someone can have ADHD misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. The overlapping symptoms between the two conditions can lead to diagnostic confusion, resulting in inaccurate assessments. There are several reasons why this misdiagnosis can occur:

  1. Similar Symptoms: ADHD and Bipolar Disorder share some common symptoms, such as impulsivity, irritability, mood swings, and difficulties with attention and focus. These overlapping features can make it challenging for healthcare professionals to differentiate between the two conditions, especially when considering only certain aspects of the individual’s behavior.
  2. Age and Developmental Factors: Some symptoms of ADHD may become less pronounced or change as a person ages, making it difficult to recognize the condition later in life. Additionally, mood swings in children with ADHD might be mistaken for signs of early-onset Bipolar Disorder.
  3. Comorbidity: Individuals can have both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder simultaneously. When a person presents with symptoms from both conditions, the complexity of the diagnosis increases, and the overlapping features can lead to confusion.
  4. Response to Medication: In some cases, individuals with ADHD might initially be prescribed medications commonly used to treat Bipolar Disorder, such as mood stabilizers. If the individual responds positively to these medications, it could further complicate the diagnosis.
  5. Lack of Awareness: Misdiagnosis can also occur when healthcare professionals are unaware of the differences between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder or are not well-informed about the individual’s complete medical history.
  6. Incomplete Assessment: A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to diagnose ADHD or Bipolar Disorder accurately. However, due to time constraints or other factors, the assessment process may not cover all relevant aspects, leading to a misdiagnosis.
  7. Diagnostic Criteria Changes: Changes in diagnostic criteria over time can influence how professionals interpret and diagnose these conditions. New information and research might not always reach all clinicians, leading to inconsistencies in diagnosis.

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The choice of medication for treating Bipolar Disorder and ADHD depends on the individual’s specific symptoms, medical history, and response to different medications. It’s essential to consult a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, who can conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend the most suitable treatment plan. Here are some commonly prescribed medications for each condition:

Bipolar Disorder:

  1. Mood Stabilizers: These medications help control mood swings and prevent episodes of mania and depression. Joint mood stabilizers include lithium, valproate (divalproex sodium), and lamotrigine.
  2. Atypical Antipsychotics: Some atypical antipsychotic medications, such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, and quetiapine, are used as mood stabilizers to manage both manic and depressive symptoms.
  3. Antidepressants: Sometimes, a healthcare professional might prescribe antidepressants to alleviate depressive episodes, but they are often used cautiously to avoid triggering manic symptoms.


  1. Stimulants: Stimulant medications are the most commonly prescribed and effective treatment for ADHD. They enhance dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, improving focus and attention. Common stimulant medications include methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse).
  2. Non-Stimulants: For individuals who do not respond well to stimulants or cannot tolerate them due to side effects, non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine (Strattera) and certain antidepressants like bupropion (Wellbutrin) may be considered.

Comorbidity – Bipolar Disorder and ADHD:

When an individual has both Bipolar Disorder and ADHD (comorbidity), treatment becomes more complex, and medication choices need careful consideration. To create a personalized treatment plan, the healthcare professional will carefully evaluate the individual’s symptoms, mood patterns, and potential interactions between medications.

Treating Comorbid ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in Adults: Strategies for Comprehensive Care

Successfully treating comorbid ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in adults requires a holistic and collaborative approach involving close collaboration between mental health professionals, patients, and their support systems.

  • Diagnosis: Accurate diagnosis is the foundation of effective treatment. The article will discuss the importance of a thorough assessment, considering both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder symptoms, to differentiate between the two conditions and establish their coexistence.
  • Medication Management: Treating comorbid ADHD and Bipolar Disorder often involves careful consideration of medication options. Healthcare professionals must weigh various medications’ potential benefits and risks, considering how they may interact and impact mood stability, attention, and impulsivity.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep, can positively impact the management of both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder symptoms.
  • Support Network: Building a solid support network with family, friends, and mental health professionals can provide valuable assistance in navigating the complexities of living with comorbid conditions.
Both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder can have a genetic component, meaning they can run in families. Having a family history of either condition might increase the risk of developing these disorders.
ADHD and Bipolar Disorder can have a genetic component, meaning they can run in families. A family history of either condition might increase the risk of developing these disorders.

What Is ADHD and Bipolar 2?

ADHD and Bipolar 2 are two distinct mental health conditions that affect an individual’s mood, behavior, and overall well-being. Here’s an overview of each condition:

Comorbidity between these two conditions is possible, and individuals may experience symptoms of both disorders simultaneously.
Comorbidity between these two conditions is possible, and individuals may experience symptoms of both disorders simultaneously.

1. ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder): ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. It is characterized by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning and development.

2. Bipolar 2 Disorder: Bipolar 2 Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of depression and hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania marked by an elevated mood and increased energy, but it does not cause significant impairment in daily functioning.

Symptoms of Bipolar 2 Disorder:

  • Depressive Episodes: Profound sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Hypomanic Episodes: Elevated mood, increased energy, impulsivity, decreased need for sleep, and engaging in pleasurable activities with potentially harmful consequences.

Differentiating ADHD and Bipolar 2: Though both conditions involve mood and behavior, they have distinct features. ADHD is primarily characterized by attention difficulties, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, while Bipolar 2 Disorder involves recurrent depressive episodes and periods of hypomania. However, diagnosing accurately is essential as some symptoms, such as impulsivity and mood swings, may overlap.

A proper evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional, often a psychiatrist or psychologist, is crucial for distinguishing between ADHD and Bipolar 2 and providing appropriate treatment and support for the individual’s specific needs. Both conditions can significantly impact an individual’s life, so early intervention and comprehensive management are essential for better outcomes.

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  1. Can you have adhd and bipolar disorder?

    Yes, you can have ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. Comorbidity between these two conditions is possible, and individuals may experience symptoms of both disorders simultaneously.

  2. What is the difference between adhd and bipolar?

    The main difference between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder lies in their core symptoms and nature. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In contrast, Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of depression and periods of mania or hypomania. While both conditions can involve mood swings, their primary symptoms and diagnostic criteria differ significantly.

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Search We Level Up WA ADHD and Bipolar Mental Health Topics & Resources
  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – Bipolar Disorder:
  2. NIMH – Borderline Personality Disorder:
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – Bipolar Disorder:
  4. SAMHSA – Borderline Personality Disorder:
  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Bipolar Disorder:
  6. NAMI – Borderline Personality Disorder:
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Mental Health – Bipolar Disorder:
  8. CDC – Mental Health – Borderline Personality Disorder:
  9. Office on Women’s Health (OWH) – Bipolar Disorder:

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