This question comes up a lot: “How do you know if it’s ADHD or bi-polar disorder?” My friend and fellow journalist-advocate John McManamy writes an excellent blog on bi-polar disorder. Recently, he has devoted a series of posts addressing this very topic. I share handy links to each post below.
Marching in a NAMI-San Diego fundraiser, John McManamy played his digeridoo.
In his regular blog posts on Knowledge Is Necessity , John often reminds his readers to also consider any possible indicators of ADHD: “Because unrecognized ADHD could be what is holding you or your loved one back. Perhaps it’s not bi-polar but actually ADHD. Or the two are co-existing: bipolar with some attention-impulse issues; ADHD with some mood-emotions issues.”
Likewise, if you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD (or suspect you have it), it’s also important to watch for bipolar and mood-disorder symptoms. Stimulants alone can exacerbate those issues. As John says: “Either way, in bipolar if the ADHD is not addressed, treatment is problematic frustration with meds, no recovery. In ADHD if the bipolar is not addressed, same thing: treatment is problematic, frustration with meds, no recovery.”
Here are the links to John’s six-part series he wrote for Health Central (did I mention he’s a heckuva compelling writer?):
[Note: This post technically comes mid-series, but I am repositioning as the intro for ADHD Roller Coaster blog readers.]
Rarely, if ever, do we “just have bipolar.” Something else is invariably going on. Perhaps not full-blown, often “a little bit of this” and “a little bit of that.” For instance, Ellen Frank of the University of Pittsburgh has done work into the overlap between mood disorders and anxiety. I recall hearing her in a talk telling people that just two symptoms of another condition can significantly complicate the course and treatment of the mood disorder.
You are probably reading this page because you know in your bones that you have bipolar [or in this blog's case, ADHD]. If you are like me, you may have welcomed the diagnosis. It explained your whole crazy life. It offered you the hope of getting your life back on track, once you figured out the nature of this beast.
But, if you are like me, you also found that their were more obstacles to your recovery than you bargained on. Once you had a handle on controlling your depressions and manias, you may have noticed some quirks in your thinking and emotions and behaviors. What was going on?
A little bit of this and that? Another full-blown diagnosis? [continued here ]
You know how it goes down. It’s late evening, you’re starting to droop, big day tomorrow, time to hit the hay. But first, five minutes to check out Facebook. Someone’s just posted “Ten Reasons Why Rednecks Make Bad Astrophysicists.” You decide you need a good laugh. You click to the full piece. It’s hilarious. You’re laughing your ass off. You can’t stop now, of course. You click on the link to “Seven Great Disasters in History Caused By Men Who Didn’t Ask for Directions.”
Inside your brain, your dopamine circuits are firing. The thinking parts of your brain lock in. You are alert and hyper-focused, but at the expense of any awareness of your immediate world and what you need to be doing to negotiate your way through it. All sense of time vanishes. [continued here ]
According to data from the International Mood Disorders Collaborative Project, nearly one in five individuals with bipolar experience ADD. What we really need to be aware of, though, is that we don’t have to have a full-blown ADHD diagnosis to complicate our lives. Virtually all of us (“normal” people included) have attention problems of some sort. Thus, we all need to be paying attention – to attention.
Another element of ADHD concerns lack of ability to rein in impulses. It works something like this: Attention is a function of the thinking parts of the brain. If you’re not thinking right, the front end of your brain is perpetually engaged in a losing battle with the back end of the brain. The back of your brain may tell you that now would be a good time to belt out “There’s No Business Like Show Business” in your best Ethel Merman voice. The front end of your brain neglects to remind you that you happen to be in the middle of a business meeting right now. [continued here ]
Last week, we asked the question, Is it hypomania or is it ADHD? This begs the obvious follow-up: Is it depression or is it ADHD? For starters, check out this DSM-IV symptom for depression:
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness …
Now compare that to this symptom for ADHD:
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks …
“Fighting through the fog” is how those with ADHD describe their attempts to achieve some form of mental clarity. All of us (even those considered “normal”) know what this is like. We experience it every morning, prior to our coffee, which I jokingly refer to as my “neuro-cognitive starter.”
Gulp-gulp-ahh! The fog lifts. But what if it doesn’t? What if, in effect, you don’t fully awaken? Is this depression or is this ADD? Maybe chronic fatigue? Perhaps all of the above? Consider this DSM-IV symptom for depression:
This is the fourth in our conversation on the overlap between bipolar and ADD (or ADHD). In our previous pieces, we looked at the confusion between hypomania and ADD and depression (and fatigue) and ADD. By way of example: If you are dancing on a table during a business meeting, oblivious to those around you, is it hypomania or ADD? What if you are over-absorbed in a project or activity? Or what if you’re jumping from one thing to the other? Or what if you fail to rein in your impulses? Or what if you experience getting high on doing something totally crazy or risky?
This is the fifth in our conversation on the overlap between bipolar and ADHD. If you are like me, you are probably a lot more confused than you were at the beginning of this series. Trust me, this is a good thing. There are no easy answers. We need to be asking questions. [continued here ]
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