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Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

Can anyone explain why.....?

Hi there, Lynne from Australia here. Coming up for my 60th Birthday very soon. Life is very good for me…depending on my current mood swing of course!

I’ve been learning how to manage life since being first diagnosed with Bipolar 2 about 7 years ago then Inattentive ADD (Attention Difference Disorder) about 3 years ago.

I’ve done a heap of research, had various therapy, joined support groups and with the approval & supervision of my regular General Practitioner Doctor plus the Psychiatrist I was referred to for medication, last year I stopped taking Dexamphetamine & Epilim (mood stabilisers).

I was off them for about 7 months before things became a bit rocky again mood wise and after a particularly stressful time (moved in with my elderly Mum while waiting for a Nursing Home vacancy), started house renovations(traditionally a huge trigger for stress for me) a couple of physical illness’s (extreme hormone imbalance, sleep apnoea & Vit D deficiency) I thought I’d found the miracle cure when my illness’s were addressed.

I booked a holiday to NZ for a week by and travelled alone & coped beautifully (I’d previously cancelled as I didn’t feel I could handle it).... and ended having THE best time.

Then came the crash!

As my husband and I had booked a month overseas travelling to various countries for my birthday, I realised that to be able to cope, as much as I hated the thought & had been in denial, I needed to start back on my mood stabilisers. I didn’t think the Dex was needed…in fact even though I stayed on them for 2 years, I never really found them to be that helpful with my inattentivity or focus issues & with trial & error learned other ways of dealing with that. But after a week back on the mood stabilisers, I’m feeling the positive affects again & way more balanced. Oh well…I tried to do it by myself. Move forward.

Let’s face it…no one ever goes to their Doctor or a Therapist & says, I think I need to start medication because I’m so happy & life is awesome! It’s only when the contrasting depression hits to we realise all is not well.

So…after sharing that, my question is can anyone enlighten me as to WHY when I’m UNMEDICATED, and I’m talking brain chemicals, what is the cause for the moods to be so extreme with the resulting consequences. E.G.

-when I’m in a LOW state which I hate… Why do I get so overwhelmed & anxious about everything and struggle to make any decisions. Get stressed over the tiniest issue. Any basic chore like shopping for food, deciding what to cook for dinner, hate socialising & want to withdraw, feel dull & fatigued, sleep a lot & struggle to actually wake up & get out of bed Lose interest in everything. Can not read any incoming mail as I just can’t comprehend & paperwork & bills mount up & I end up procrastinating myself into total immobilisation.  Can’t force myself to exercise at all. Generally feel depressed or how author Stacy Turis so beautifully describes as being in the “Dead Place”.

-when I’m in a HIGH state that I adore…Why can I return to all my usual activities, volunteer job with animals, socialise easily with friends & actually WANT to be in contact with my family. I feel intelligent & can write, attend classes that interest & quickly absorb information, can tackle problems easily, paperwork gets sorted efficiently,answer emails, become amazingly creative & have gazillions of great ideas. Help others, have energy, sleep less & wake up alert, rediscover my interest in the house again, especially cooking and start trying new recipes because I can follow the recipe and it makes sense, do basic housework (I never, ever get interested in that but that’s an ADHD thing…so boring!)

Anyway you get the gist?

I’d love some input thanks.



Your brain oscillates back and forth/up and down. So do the meds you have been taking, and so does the life you have been living.  I think for you the problem is that the three of them are going different directions.  Try to get the meds to match better what the brain is doing and smooth things out a bit.  The life part is tougher because you never know where that will go next.

I have no experience with bipolar issues, but with AD/HD it is what it is and it kind of goes where it goes.  You cannot control it, so try re-working your life by changing the things that you do control.  It is a bit like surfing - you have to surf where the wave is.  If you cannot control the mood swings completely, then try reorganising your life a bit so as to make the most of what you have.  Figure out what works well when you’re manic and do stuff that burns up the energy.  Plan ahead so you have things to do and people to be with when you’re down.  Every bit of life is worth living and brains are wonderful things even if they get a little weird from time to time.  It is what it is - its what you do with it that counts.

Posted by Cedar on May 10, 2014 at 6:43am

Hi Serenity,
I’ve met many folk in my practice who have benefitted from making adjustments to diet to help moderate the mood swings. For that you’ll need to work with a professional who is nearby and who deals with such things.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on May 10, 2014 at 5:18pm

I have found that if I can identify the high and try to calm it down, I will not crash and burn.  It is all too easy to allow myself to get swept away with how good it feels to be manic…. Until of course you hit the part where it runs away with you.  I know when I need to take a pill and stop pushing up, up, up. 

Addressing the ADD has helped me to balance the moods.  The low is not so low and actually passes more quickly.  I still use my mood stabilizer but now I take ritalin which addresses the dopamine.  I am better able to make a decision to do something and take the steps to do it.  Before ritalin, it was hit or miss as to getting anything done and I was totally frustrated by being driven by my mood.

Posted by Martini925 on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:34am

The answer to “why” is you have a disease called bipolar. The nature of the beast is to go from one extreme to the other.  I was diagnosed 30 years ago and I can tell you that there are times when you will feel, and actually be, normal.  But, you will not stay that way, you will either go up or down.  I wouldn’t knock myself out asking why - it is what it is - but you need to stay on your meds because being bipolar means you can never stay normal.  Many years ago, while being hospitalized again after being hospitalized every year for years, my doctor told me “if you don’t want to be here next year you will stay on your meds”.  He was so right!  I have stayed compliant and have not been back for over 10 years now!  Experience with the disease also helps a lot and the longer you are on this journey the more insight you will gain.  Good Luck!

Posted by mawkovin on Jun 25, 2016 at 4:38am

Great mawkovin!  Not sure how active these forums are, but good for you!  The bipolar adhd combination is surely a challenge!

Looking for the right combination for our son also.  Just posted a few places on here, but dealing with mania and taking stimulant meds away and seeing if that helps?

Any thoughts or experiences like that?

Posted by Unconventional on Aug 01, 2016 at 10:08pm

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