Bipolar Disorder and ADHD: Similarities and Differences in Teens and Children

When someone tells a parent there’s a possibility their child suffers from a type of mental health concern, it can stir up many feelings. The most common mental health concern in children of late has been attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, diagnoses of ADHD can occur when some teens and children should have been diagnosed under another category. ADHD is diagnosed using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual and requires the child or teen to meet six out of the eighteen symptoms and must be present in the teen for at least six months in two or more settings – like school and home. There are several experts and professionals who believe that there are some teens and children whose symptoms are really reflective of bipolar disorder. Typically teens and children with ADHD are known for their inability to pay attention, but mostly for hyperactivity. Bipolar disorder is characterized by drastic mood swings, with hypermania as the high points and extreme sadness and depression as the lows. While a child or teen with ADHD will experience moments of depression for what appear to be no reason, those with bipolar disorder will feel depressed for weeks at a time. The inability to pay attention is another aspect of these two disorders that can be confused. Those with ADHD aren’t able to focus on one thing for an extended period of time even when they want to. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, causes teens and children to simply lose the desire to even care about what they are doing. Bipolar disorder can cause an individual to respond to a normal life event in a manner that may be out of proportion in relation to the situation. A child with ADHD will, however, respond to the same life events in a normal and predictable manner. There are several other ways to differentiate between these two mental health concerns. It is important that your teen receives the correct diagnosis, which will ensure they are getting the right kind of help. Making an appointment with a professional who specializes in ADHD and bipolar disorder is going to help make sure that a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is laid out for your child.

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