The Differences between Teen ADHD and Teen Bipolar Disorder

Teen ADHD and Teen Bipolar Disorder

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is easy to confuse with Bipolar Disorder. Add to that the chaos of adolescence and the new behaviors your teen might be exhibiting, it could be difficult to know what to share with a mental health professional who is preparing to diagnose your child.

ADHD is a disorder that is commonly co-diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. However, its symptoms are distinctly different than those of Bipolar, and nonetheless, they are easy to mix up. For this reason, the list below is for illustrating their differences.

First, let us explore ADHD in more detail. It’s a disorder that is characterized by difficulty in paying attention to details, impulsivity, hyperactivity, making careless mistakes, trouble listening to others, problems with organization, and distractibility. It typically shows up in children much earlier than Bipolar Disorder. ADHD will begin to show its signs at around age 7 or 8, while Bipolar Disorder will become evident around ages 15-19. Although both disorders might reveal their symptoms earlier or later in childhood, these are the typical age ranges in which they begin to emerge.

You might already be able to detect the similarities in symptoms between the two. If your child has already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, you know that during his or her manic episode, there are symptoms that are similar to those described above for ADHD. However, let us explore those differences now.


ADHD: Hyperactivity, impulsivity, but not usually accompanied by elation or grandiosity

Bipolar: Manic episodes are distinct periods of an elated mood, grandiosity, along with a decreased need for sleep

ADHD: Problems with distractibility, attention, organization, and memory are consistent.

Bipolar: Problems with attention, distractibility, and impulsivity are usually signs of a manic episode.

ADHD: Moods do not fluctuate widely.

Bipolar: There is a rapid cycling of moods, ranging from one extreme to the other.

ADHD: The age of onset is usually under 10 years old.

Bipolar: The age of onset is typically during mid to late adolescence.

ADHD: More common in boys

Bipolar: Common between both boys and girls equally

ADHD: Irritability, fast speech, and increase levels of energy are symptoms that are stable.

Bipolar: Irritability, fast speech, and increase levels of energy are the result of mood swings.


Although, ADHD is diagnosed along with Bipolar Disorder in about 60-90% of teens, this list is meant to point out the clear differences between these two disorders. As a parent, you’re likely searching for information to help you understand the behavior of your child. This article is to know the differences between teen ADHD and Teen Bipolar disorder.