Study aims to find link between ADHD in childhood and bipolar disorder in adulthood

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McNamara explains that their research can help physicians know if an ADHD patient is at risk of developing bipolar disorder before they prescribe any medication.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are currently studying a possible link between ADHD and bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is usually preceded by ADHD during childhood

Dr. Robert McNamara, the study's lead researcher, said that bipolar disorder is usually preceded by ADHD during childhood and early adolescence.


He adds, "Because youth at risk for bipolar disorder often initially present with ADHD, they are commonly prescribed a psychostimulant medication, and it is presently unknown whether this increases risk for precipitating the onset of bipolar disorder."

"By studying early brain changes in response to psychostimulant treatment, we will develop a better understanding of how this standard ADHD treatment may affect high-risk youth differently."

The research aims to understand better the relationship between ADHD and bipolar disorder. It will also study if any treatments can cause bipolar disorder later on in life.

The research will be helpful for physicians

McNamara explains that their research can help physicians know if an ADHD patient is at risk of developing bipolar disorder before they prescribe any medication. That way, they can use a different strategy for treatment for patients that are at risk.

He shared that they will also study whether a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids exhibited by children at risk for bipolar disorder can affect the effectiveness of bipolar disorder medication.

According to McNamara, "Omega-3 fatty acids, present primarily in fish, have been found to play a crucial role in brain development. Previous research has shown that adolescents at a high risk for bipolar disorder exhibit low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and that low omega-3 levels can lead to a different behavioral response to psychostimulants."

The study has been funded with a $3.23 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

What exactly is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterised by a pattern of three different behaviours, namely:

  1. InattentionThe person lacks persistence, has problems focusing, and can be disorganised.
  2. Hyperactivity - An example of this is excessive fidgeting, restlessness, and a habit of moving about constantly.
  3. Impulsivity - This means that someone diagnosed with ADHD makes quick decisions without thinking of the long-term consequences.

Currently, there is no "cure". However, there are a number of treatments that can help reduce the symptoms and help people with ADHD function better. These treatments include, medication, psychotherapy, education, training, or any combination.

If you think that your child might have ADHD, then it would be best to consult a psychiatrist to better understand your child's condition. People who have ADHD can function normally just like everyone else. But it is crucial that they manage their condition through the help of a doctor.



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Written by

Alwyn Batara