Background: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) experience adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at rates substantially greater than the general population. Nonetheless, ADHD frequently goes untreated in this population.
Methods: We reviewed the literature regarding the management of adult ADHD in patients with mood disorders. Because a limited number of studies have been conducted in adults, our treatment recommendations also are partly informed by research in children and adolescents with BD+ADHD or MDD+ADHD, adults with ADHD, and our clinical experience.
Results: In individuals with mood disorders, ADHD is best diagnosed when typical symptoms persist during periods of sustained euthymia. Individuals with BD+ADHD, particularly those with bipolar I disorder (BD I), are at risk for mood destabilization with many ADHD treatments, and should be prescribed mood-stabilizing medications before initiating ADHD therapies. Bupropion is a reasonable first-line treatment for BD+ADHD, while mixed amphetamine salts and methylphenidate also may be considered in patients determined to be at low risk for manic switch. Modafinil and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are second-line choices. In patients with MDD+ADHD and moderate to severe depression, MDD should be the treatment priority, whereas in mildly depressed or euthymic patients the order may be reversed. First-line treatments for MDD+ADHD include bupropion, an antidepressant plus a long-acting stimulant, or an antidepressant plus CBT. Desipramine, nortriptyline, and venlafaxine are second-line options.
Conclusions: Clinicians should be vigilant in screening for comorbid ADHD in mood disorder patients. ADHD symptoms can respond to appropriately chosen treatments.