When you have been living with bipolar disorder for some time, you know that having a mental health disorder is a challenge. However, if your therapist or physician also tells you that they believe you to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may be wondering what this could mean for you and your overall health and well-being. Get to know more about what your new ADHD diagnosis means for you and your bipolar disorder so you know what to expect going forward.
Your Situation Is Not Uncommon
Firstly, you should know that it is not at all uncommon for a person with bipolar disorder to have ADHD (or vice versa). In fact, studies have shown that as high as 20 percent of patients with bipolar disorder also suffer from ADHD, though other studies put the range between six and fifteen percent for men and women. Men are somewhat more likely to suffer from both conditions, though women can be diagnosed with both as well.
Based on these numbers, what is known as comorbidity between ADHD and bipolar disorder is considered statistically significant. Doctors are not fully certain why this is the case, but they have theorized that it could be because of similarities in the ways the two conditions affect the brain or because of genetic predispositions.
These Conditions Can Cause Many of the Same Symptoms
Another fact to consider about bipolar disorder and ADHD is that the two conditions can cause similar symptoms. They can also interact with one another to exacerbate symptoms.
For example, a person with ADHD can experience irritability and anxiety because they have some much frantic energy. However, a person in a manic phase with bipolar disorder can also have these issues. If a person has both conditions, they can both contribute to symptoms a person is experiencing.
Having ADHD Can Cause More Mixed Episodes
When you have bipolar disorder, there are three different mood states that a person can have that are considered part of the disorder. Those are depressive, manic, and mixed episodes. When a person has a mixed episode, it means that they are having symptoms of highs and lows at the same time.
For example, a person can feel extremely fatigued and down but may have racing thoughts or may be exceptionally anxious and irritable. Mixed episodes are often the most dangerous in bipolar disorder and can lead to the most suicide attempts because of the overwhelming nature of such situations.
When a person has ADHD in addition to bipolar disorder, they have a higher occurrence of mixed episodes than those people with only bipolar disorder. This is because the symptoms of ADHD can occur alongside those bipolar episodes creating an unusual mixture.
Treating These Two Conditions Can Be Complex
If you have both bipolar disorder and ADHD, treatment can get challenging and difficult. This is because the symptoms can be so mixed and the medications used to treat the different disorders affect the brain in different ways.
For bipolar disorder, for example, there are antipsychotic medications as well as mood stabilizers designed to reduce those highs and lows and give a person more "normal" mood periods. On the other hand, ADHD is generally treated with stimulant medications. One of the unfortunate things about stimulants is that they can trigger mania or hypomania in a person with bipolar disorder.
Medications need to be carefully monitored and dosages continuously adjusted to ensure that the best balance can be found in managing both conditions. People with bipolar disorder and ADHD can also benefit from therapy and counseling as behavioral modifications, cognitive therapeutic techniques, and the like can help to better manage symptoms and prevent extreme moods.
Additionally, having both conditions can result in more hospitalizations and longer stays. However, many suffering from these two conditions will qualify for long-term Medicaid services or other assistance because of the financial burden such care entails.
Knowing this information, you can better deal with your added diagnosis of ADHD to your bipolar disorder.