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While some individuals experience only the manic episodes, many affected individuals rapidly alternate between these two states and experience great irritability.As with other psychiatric disorders, studies suggest that bipolar disorder may be relatively common among children and adults with autism.Attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD, is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, or a combination.About 60 percent of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD; that’s about 4 percent of the adult population, or 8 million adults.* Less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.* Thought to be biological and most often genetic, ADHD takes place very early in brain development.In many cases, their “mania” symptoms were, in fact, symptoms of autism. In our study, we found we could tease apart the symptoms of true bipolar disorder from those of autism by looking carefully at when the symptoms appeared and how long they lasted.An example would be a teenager with autism who has always been high-energy, happy and socially intrusive.Adults with ADHD are likely to have an anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or other comorbid psychiatric disorder.(The term “comorbid” refers to a condition that exists with another.) About 50 percent of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder.
In a study of children with autism (ages 7 to 17), we found that nearly a third had frequent episodes of “elevated mood.” Just over 60 percent could be described as “very irritable.” Just over half talked excessively.
For these reasons, traditional methods of assessing psychiatric disorders can be inappropriate for many of those with autism.
It’s particularly important for the doctor to get to know the individual and his or her family and environment before attempting such a diagnosis.
They commonly include “pressured speech” (rapid, loud and virtually nonstop talking), constant pacing, an abrupt decrease in sleep and increased impulsivity leading to aggression.
Psychiatrists often prescribe psychoactive medications to treat bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, lithium often produces significant side effects.