There is no doubt that bipolar shares symptoms with other psychiatric illnesses such as ADHD.

Moreover, both conditions have co-occurring symptoms. More surprising is that if a person is diagnosed with either, it may not be long before the other problem comes to light. 

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Recent research depicts that in every six adults diagnosed with bipolar, one has ADHD as well.

Nevertheless, some studies suggest that there is no link between the two disorders. However, with many bipolar patients initially misdiagnosed as having ADHD, it is pretty clear that there is a thin line between these two conditions. 

Keep reading as we strive on defining ADHD vs. bipolar.  In addition, we will share common similarities and disparities between these two mental conditions. 

Bipolar Disorder Vs. ADHD

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Common characteristics of bipolar disorder include severe depression and mania (feeling very high and excitable).

On the other hand, ADHD manifests itself as a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity that negatively impacts functioning or development in children.

Whereas ADHD takes many forms, the most common subtypes include:

  • Combined type
  • Predominantly inattentive type
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type

It is worth noting that some characteristics of ADHD often overlap with bipolar.

These characteristics include: 

As a result, it becomes nearly impossible to tell them apart. Altogether, it is still not clear why these conditions often coincide.

What Are the Similarities Between ADHD and Bipolar?

In other terms, how are bipolar and ADHD alike? Both disorders impact people similarly by making them more prone to breaking the rules or causing disturbances at home or work.

Below are other similarities between bipolar disorder and ADHD.

  • Common Symptoms

People living with Bipolar disorder and ADHD tend to have some similar symptoms.

Even though they may seem unrelated at first glance, you might notice common symptoms like:

  • Distractibility
  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Difficulty paying attention to tasks or other people
ADHD Vs. Bipolar

Characteristics of ADHD

  • Mania

It is also common for sufferers of both diseases to experience episodes of mania or hypomania. For most patients with bipolar disorder, their manic phases last longer and occur more frequently compared to ADHD. 

  • Bonding and Intimacy 

In the case of bipolar disorder, patients find it difficult to establish strong bonds with others. Though, those with ADHD have difficulty bonding/intimacy in relationships. 

  • Depression

The depressive phase in bipolar disorder usually lasts longer and is much more severe than that in individuals who have ADHD.

It may also be accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as:

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  • A Prolonged Period Without Symptoms

If a patient with bipolar disorder progressed in life without experiencing any episodes of mania or depression, this would make the actual diagnosis less clear-cut.

However, this is not the case with ADHD since sufferers tend to experience some form of hyperactivity or attention deficit throughout their lives, even in adulthood. 

That said, it has been proven that there are specific differences between ADHD and bipolar disorder. [1*]

Here are five significant disparities that put the two conditions apart

  • Sleep Cycle Similarities 

Bipolar patients sleep longer than people living with ADHD, with cycles varying from day to night. In some instances, bipolar patients can spend one or weeks on end without sleeping at all. 

  • Medication Treatments 

There is no specific medication used exclusively for ADHD patients. Conversely, bipolar disorder patients are more likely to use particular medicines for their condition. 

  • Moods 

The mood changes experienced by individuals with bipolar disorder can be rather extreme, leading them to experience:

Individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to experience happiness, sadness, and frustration as normal emotions when interacting with others. Still, they don’t face them as frequently or with the same intensity. 

ADHD Vs. Bipolar

Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder

  • Misdiagnosis 

People are often misdiagnosed for having a bipolar disorder when they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or vice versa.

Bipolar symptoms include severe highs and lows, whereas children with ADHD can be disruptive but not necessarily from manic behavior. 

  • Treatment Options 

There are many different treatment options for patients with bipolar disorder, but they all tend to affect the patient’s mood in some way or another. Those that treat ADHD can have a negative impact on mania symptoms as well.

Hence, this issue must be considered when discussing treatment plans with your doctor. 

Is ADHD Worse Than Bipolar?

People suffering from ADHD usually can control their acts better than those who suffer from severe cases of Bipolar. We can conclude that bipolar is more damaging to health and living quality compared to ADHD.

Can ADHD Cause Manic Episodes?

Absolutely yes. Mania is a state of elevated mood, and ADHD can cause it. Mainly, it is characterized by an increased level of energy and heightened thoughts, feelings, and senses.

ADHD symptoms do improve with time, they can still interfere with an adult’s functioning. Click the button below to manage the symptoms.

Bottom Line

Stakes are high that those diagnosed with bipolar disorder have other disorders as well. Experts refer to this state as Comorbidity, which means that there is more than one condition present in an individual. 

It is essential to be aware of this because it can help your doctor develop a better treatment plan to account for all possible conditions. For this reason, contact reputable mental health experts at EZCare Clinic and experience world-class service.


+1 sources
  1. Bipolar Disorder or ADHD? (2022)
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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.