Bipolar and ADHD Link

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by changes in thoughts, emotions, and behavior.People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of mania, hypomania, and depressive episodes

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. The onset occurs in childhood and includes three main presentations: primarily inattention, primarily hyperactive-impulsive, or both.

This article explores the relationship between bipolar disorder and ADHD, and why they occur together.

The relationship between bipolar disorder and ADHD

Bipolar disorder and ADHD can be co-morbid, meaning a person can have both conditions. Determining whether someone has bipolar disorder, ADHD, or both can be challenging because some symptoms are similar.

Symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity, inattention, or difficulty concentrating, may also be observed in people with bipolar disorder, especially when emotions are high.

Everyone’s experience with bipolar disorder and/or ADHD is different. Accurate diagnosis of both disorders, if present, is important because studies have shown that comorbidities of these disorders can significantly impact daily functioning.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are two main subtypes of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar 1: At least one manic episode.
  • Bipolar 2: This subtype includes hypomania and depression, but not mania. Symptoms of hypomania are similar to mania, but less severe.

Why do bipolar and ADHD co-occur?

Because the exact causes of bipolar disorder and ADHD are unknown, it can be difficult to determine why they occur together.

However, one study found that people with first-degree relatives (parents, offspring, and siblings) of someone with ADHD were more likely to develop bipolar disorder. This could indicate a potential genetic link.

How often does ADHD co-occur with bipolar disorder?

One study of people with ADHD found that 4.9 percent of participants also had bipolar disorder, while other studies found higher rates. People with ADHD have a significantly higher risk of developing bipolar disorder than people without ADHD.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar and ADHD

Bipolar disorder is characterized by manic, hypomanic, and depressive symptoms. Mania may include:

  • inflated self-awareness
  • high mood
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • racing thoughts
  • stressful speech
  • distraction
  • impulse

The symptoms of hypomania are similar but less disruptive.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • low mood and depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • Interference with sleep mode
  • Lack of interest in activities that previously brought joy
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • Feeling of worthlessness, helplessness, despair
  • thoughts of death or suicide

If you have suicidal thoughts

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.

ADHD is defined as symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or both.

Symptoms of inattention may look like this:

  • Missing important details
  • Difficulty maintaining focus or concentration
  • distraction
  • Organization and follow-up challenges
  • forgetfulness of daily activities

Hyperactivity and impulsivity can look like:

  • uneasy
  • interrupt or break in
  • Difficulty planning and executing
  • Sitting still (fidgeting, tapping)

People with ADHD may experience symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.

Treatment for people with both

Treatment of concurrent bipolar disorder and ADHD is not straightforward. More research is needed to determine best practices.

Currently, healthcare providers may handle each case on an individual basis to determine a patient’s needs. However, treating symptoms to stabilize the patient is often considered the first step in treatment.

Treatment strategies for bipolar disorder include medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Drug options may include:

  • mood stabilizer
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants (depending on the type of bipolar disorder, as they can trigger mania)

Once bipolar symptoms are under control in people with bipolar disorder and ADHD comorbidity, healthcare providers may add stimulant or non-stimulant medications to treat symptoms of inattention.

Some non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD include:

  • atomoxetine
  • Clonidine
  • Guanfacine

In some cases, stimulants can trigger manic symptoms, so regular contact with a healthcare provider is essential. Medication management for bipolar disorder and ADHD can involve some trial and error.

Lifestyle changes, such as regular sleep, healthy, balanced meals and exercise, can support people with bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Treatment interventions for bipolar disorder, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy, can teach individuals how to challenge distorted thinking, improve the way they regulate their emotions, and improve coping skills. Other strategies and behavioral interventions, such as establishing routines and creating systems to support symptoms, may also help.

Ultimately, working with a healthcare provider can determine the best treatment plan.


If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder and/or ADHD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline for your area at 1-800-662-4357 information on support and treatment facilities. For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.


Bipolar disorder is a disorder characterized by emotional episodes. A person may experience low and elevated mood states with a range of symptoms that affect thoughts, emotions, and behavior. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by inattention and/or hyperactivity. These conditions can occur at the same time and have overlapping symptoms, which complicates diagnosis. However, therapeutic strategies such as therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms.

VigorTip words

Managing bipolar disorder or ADHD can be challenging. When these conditions occur together and symptoms overlap, it can be overwhelming. However, having a clear diagnosis and understanding your symptoms can help you develop an effective treatment plan with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you develop bipolar disorder at any age?

    Although a person can develop bipolar disorder at any time, the typical onset of bipolar disorder is late adolescence or early adulthood.

  • Can bipolar disorder be cured?

    Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition. Although treatable, there is no cure. Working closely with a mental health professional can help monitor and treat episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression.

  • Can ADHD be cured?

    ADHD has no cure. However, various therapeutic interventions including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can help with symptom management.

  • Can untreated ADHD lead to bipolar disorder later in life?

    Studies have found that children with ADHD are at higher risk for hypomanic or manic episodes, as well as several other types of psychiatric symptoms, once they grow up.