ADHD or Bipolar??? HELP!

My husband was diagnosed with ADHD about 2 years ago, he is 39. He has every symptom of it, but cannot seem to find the right meds plus counseling. Our marriage really takes a hit from it, but I have been reading the new book and it really helps- it is our exact marraige! He was very happy today because he had an appt with a great ADHD psychiatrist, but when he got there they said the psych was backed up and he saw a nurse practiioner that hasnt even graduated yet! He was so bummed and confused when he left because he said the guy didnt even listen and then told him he has bipolar NOT adhd, and gave him a prescription for a new antidepressent plus abilify. He has been to so many doctors and he's starting to feel hopeless. how can it be bipolar if he sounds just like the adhd spouse in the book (ADHD and the effect on a marriage)? He doesnt even know what to do now, and i feel bad for him because he is trying. What should we do now??? He does exhibit some bipolar symptoms like severe moodiness and hyperness, mood swings, but isnt that also adhd???

Thanks for any help you can offer...


add or bipolar


I found this article and saved it to my flashdrive.  It is likely I found it from something Dr. Parker posted.  But it is written by Dr. Popper.  I hope it helps you even though he is addressing children.  there may be more recent research too so add this to your information and keep searching for answers.

The Diagnostic Dilemma: Bipolar Disorder vs. ADHD
Dr. Charles Popper, “Diagnosing Bipolar vs. ADHD, a Pharmacologic Point of View.” The Link 13 1996.
1. Destructiveness may be seen in both disorders but differs in origin. Children who are ADHD often break things carelessly while playing (“non-angry destructiveness”), whereas the major destructiveness of children who are bipolar is not a result of carelessness but tends to occur in anger. Children who are bipolar may exhibit severe temper tantrums during which they release manic quantities of physical and emotional energy, sometimes with violence and physical property destruction. They may even exhibit openly sadistic impulses.
2. The duration and intensity of physical outbursts and temper tantrums differs in the two disorders. Children who are ADHD usually calm down in twenty to thirty minutes, whereas children who are bipolar may continue to feel and act angry for up to four hours.
3. The degree of “regression” during angry episodes is typically more severe for children who are bipolar. It is rare to see an angry child who is ADHD display disorganized thinking, language, and body position, all of which may be seen in angry bipolar children during a tantrum. Children who are bipolar may also lose memory of the tantrum.
4. The “trigger” for temper tantrums is also different. Children who have ADHD are typically triggered by sensory and emotional overstimulation, whereas children who have bipolar disorder typically react to limit-setting, such as a parental “no.”
5. The moods of children who have ADHD or bipolar disorder may change quickly, but children with ADHD do not generally show dysphoria (depression) as a predominant symptom. Irritability is particularly prominent in children who are bipolar, especially in the morning on arousal. Children with ADHD tend to arouse quickly and attain alertness within minutes, but children with mood disorders may show overly slow arousal (including several hours of irritability or dysphoria, fuzzy thinking or “cobwebs,” and somatic complaints such as stomachaches and headaches) upon awakening in the morning.
6. Disturbances during sleep in children with bipolar disorder include severe nightmares or night terrors often with themes of explicit gore and bodily mutilation.
7. Children who are bipolar often show giftedness in certain cognitive functions, especially verbal and artistic skills (perhaps with verbal precocity and punning by age two to three years).
8. The misbehavior in children with ADHD is often accidental and usually caused by oblivious inattention, whereas children with bipolar disorders intentionally provoke or misbehave. Some bipolar children are described as “the bully on the playground.”
9. The child with ADHD may engage in behavior that can lead to harmful consequences without being aware of the danger, whereas the child with bipolar disorder is risk seeking.
10. Bipolar children tend to have a strong early sexual interest and behavior.
11. Children with ADHD usually do not exhibit psychotic symptoms or reveal a loss of contact with reality, whereas children with bipolar disorder may exhibit gross distortions in the perception of reality or in the interpretation of emotional events.
12. Lithium treatment generally improves bipolar disorder but has little or no effect on ADHD


ADHD vs Bipolar

Brendab - thanks for posting this!  With this info to think about, I suggest that your husband go get a second opinion - either with his regular doc or with a different one.  These meds are powerful enough that he will want to make sure he is on the right one.

ADHD and bipolar

I was just wondering if you figured out if the diagnosis was correct.  I am having the same questions with my own husband.  I guess I need to know (and maybe you do to), is it possible to have both disorders at the same time?  My husband is currently being treated for both!  It is very confusing.

It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that they can have both, but since they are very similar in 'symptoms' it would take a psychiatrist to diagnose. Do a Google search for ADHD vs. Bipolar. They are strikingly similar, but there are some differences that might give you a good idea if your husband has either or both.

It is my understanding that the medications for each do NOT mesh well and in a case where bipolar is present, it is treated (with medication) since it is considered a 'priority' over ADHD.

Hope this helps!


Me Too!

I had the same thing happen when my ADHD specialist left and I saw a new psych who diagnosed me w/Bipolar, started meds and the next 4 months were absolute HELL.  I AM NOT bipolar but have depression and ADHD, the two can be confused by medical practitioners but it's based on what we tell them.  I take an antidepressant and am not being treated for my ADHD due to lack of health insurance but when I am I take Strattera and may try Ritalin once my insurance starts on June 1st but know how bipolar II can be confused with ADHD and depression/anxiety especially if the ADHD treatment isn't working.  I would email, call, write to the doc your husband is comfortable with and explain his concerns because bipolar treatment and ADHD/depression treatment are completely different and if the diagnosis is incorrect, as in my case, the meds for the wrong diagnosis will make the real problem worse!

I got back on the right meds for ADHD and depression and felt significantly better almost immediately, there's hope but you need to advocate for your husband or have him speak up to his primary treating doc ASAP!