Delineating ADHD and bipolar disorder: A comparison of clinical profiles in adult women

J Affect Disord. 2016 Mar 1:192:125-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.12.024. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Objective: Overlapping symptoms can make the diagnostic differentiation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder (BD) challenging in adults using current clinical assessments. This study sought to determine if current clinical measures delineate ADHD from BD in adults, comparing relative levels of ADHD, BD and emotional lability (EL) symptoms.

Methods: Sixty adult women with ADHD, BD or controls were compared on self-report and interview measures for ADHD symptoms, mania, depression, EL, and impairment.

Results: ADHD interview measures and self-ratings of ADHD symptoms best discriminated between ADHD and BD. Self-report measures of EL and depression showed non-specific enhancement in both clinical groups. BD-specific items may distinguish BD from ADHD if a retrospective time-frame is adopted.

Conclusions: Using measures which capture specific symptoms of ADHD and chronicity/episodicity of symptoms facilitates the delineation of ADHD from BD in adult women.

Keywords: Adults; Attention/deficit Hyperactivity-disorder; Bipolar disorder; Diagnostic errors; Mood disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • Women's Health*