Is There a Link Between Bipolar Disorder and ADHD?

Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

Bipolar Disorder and ADHDA possible link between bipolar disorder and ADHD is being investigated. However, it is difficult to make a clear determination, because many of the symptoms of the disorders are similar. People diagnosed with ADHD or bipolar may demonstrate poor impulse control, distractibility and hyperactivity.

The United States National Institute of Health is conducting and reviewing several research studies. While the studies raise some interesting points, it is difficult to draw a clear conclusion from them. All researchers appear to agree that more studies are needed in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion.

Bipolar disorder is classified as a spectrum disorder because it has a range of intensities and presentations. The current term for bipolar disorder is Bipolar Spectrum Disorder, BPSD. This term reflects the range of conditions that fall under the bipolar umbrella. Diagnoses under the bipolar umbrella include bipolar NOS, cyclothymic disorder, bipolar I, and bipolar II.

ADHD is the abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is much more common than BPSD.

How Often Do Bipolar Disorder and ADHD Occur Together?

While this initially seems like a question that should be easy to answer, it depends on who you ask.  One of the problems with determining the frequency of the disorders is that studies have primarily been conducted on children and adolescents who are receiving mental health services. This does not give an accurate picture of how common the conditions occur simultaneously among the general population, especially among adults.


Worldwide, BPSDs are believed to occur in less than two percent of the general population. ADHD rates are estimated to be between five and 10 percent. Statistically, only a fraction of a percentage of the general public should have both disorders.

Among people diagnosed with ADHD or a BPSD the statistical likelihood of having both types of disorders is still less than ten percent. However, several studies indicate that the likelihood of having both disorders may be over sixty percent among people who are being treated for at least one of the conditions. While this may seem overwhelming, keep in mind that the rates in various studies range from 0% overlap to almost 100%. It is simply too early  to draw a clear conclusion.

Most of the studies have been conducted over the past fifteen years or so because in the past, people believed that individuals who were diagnosed with ADHD would outgrow it. The possible link was simply not explored until fairly recently.

Next page: are ADHD and bipolar disorder genetic?

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Patricia BratianuPatricia Bratianu

Patricia is a registered nurse with 40 years of experience. She has a PhD in natural health and is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild.

Mar 17, 2015
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