Adult ADHD and Bipolar Disorder

What is Adult ADHD and bipolar disorder? The acronym ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Hyperactivity is defined as inability to pay attention and extreme impulsiveness. Bipolar disorder is characterized by severe swings between depression and high energy. It is possible for an adult to have both of these conditions simultaneously.


The presence of both disorders can be very difficult to diagnose. The two conditions can exhibit very similar symptoms. A study by Timothy Wilens, MD found that 24 of 51 adults included in a study of these conditions had both adult ADHD and bipolar disorder. One of the key indicators of the presence of both conditions is failure of patient's symptoms to improve as they get older. Typically, ADHD symptoms will lessen as patients reach maturity. If the patient has both conditions however, the symptoms often do not improve with age. Severity of overall symptoms is also greater in adults with both conditions.

Masking Bipolar and ADHD

Children suffering from ADHD or bipolar symptoms are often identified and treated due to poor school performance. Adults with these disorders may have to take the initiative to address their symptoms with their medical team themselves. If an adult has persistent trouble concentrating and completing tasks severe enough to affect work and relationships, discussing these issues with a medical professional or counselor would be a good first step towards getting help for these conditions.


One of the main drugs used to treat both disorders is Wellbutrin. Though originally used as an anti-depressant, patients with both adult ADHD and bipolar disorder found taking this drug significantly improved their symptoms. Adults on this medication found they now had the ability to sustain employment and relationships, which they were not able to do prior to treatment with this drug. In fact, most adults in Dr. Wilen's study chose to continue to take Wellbutrin after the study ended.

Alternative Therapies

Natural treatments can also be used to either supplement or replace the use of synthetic stimulant-based drugs for the treatment of adult ADHD and bipolar disorder. While traditional medical treatments can provide symptom relief, patients and families may be concerned about long term side effects from synthetic drugs. Patients should consult with their physicians before stopping any prescribed treatment, though discussing alternative therapies with their medical care team may open the doors to more options. Here are some alternative therapies and descriptions.

  • Homeopathic Therapy - Homeopathic options can include improved nutrition and natural vitamins. Elimination of dyes, sugar, and preservatives in the diet can also contribute to successful homeopathic treatment.

  • ADHD Counseling - Counseling can enhance organizational skills by encouraging use of practical tools such as list making and techniques to reduce losing personal items. Counseling can also counteract the anxiety resulting from the dual disorders.

  • Biofeedback - Visualization and relaxation techniques are taught which allow patients to obtain control over their reactions.

  • Auditory Stimulation - Listening to music while completing tasks that require concentration has been reported to help maintain focus. Patients reported they also retained information longer when auditory stimulation was used.

  • Strenuous Exercise - Patients who participate in intensive physical activity often report reduced severity of mood swings and inability to concentrate.

Neither ADHD nor bipolar disorder was well diagnosed and treated by the medical and psychological professions until about 20 years ago. Though adults suffering from these disorders have treatments available today, adult patients may also suffer lower self esteem due to being labeled as lazy or careless. Stress from lower self esteem and life problems such as job loss and relationship failure due to ADHD and bipolar symptoms can also cause stress-related illnesses such as ulcers or high blood pressure.

Individuals who suspect they may suffer from adult ADHD and bipolar disorder should promptly seek treatment. The variety of traditional and natural treatments available today can have a positive impact on the quality of their lives.

› Adult ADHD and Bipolar Disorder

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