ADD or Bipolar? Meds
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Q:  ADD or Bipolar?  Meds

My husband was diagnosed with ADD when he was a child and a couple of years ago was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  He had not been taking his medication and got in trouble and is currently in prison.  The doctor in the prison told him that he is not bipolor he has a severe case of ADD.  I have two questions:

1. How can someone be properly diagnosed to figure out if they have ADD or if they are bipolar?

2. If he is not bipolar and has ADD is it necessary for him to be taking medication for bipolar disorder?  He is currently taking Depakote, Wellbutrin and Neurotin.  He has tried a number of different medications and this combination seems to be working the best for him.


Dear Ms. S' -- 
Fair question to ask, and the doc's right to wonder if there's a simpler explanation than two conditions together.  Here's an essay I wrote for primary care docs' facing the question of "
ADD or bipolar"? 

If he's "not bipolar", then theoretically no, he wouldn't need the Depakote (which has not been shown to be of value in the treatment of ADD, to my knowledge).  However, you might read over the section of my website on diagnosis of BPII, to see that in my view the question should not be "bipolar, or not?" but rather "how bipolar might he be?  just a little?"  And that changes this discussion quite a bit, in my view.  

Dr. Phelps


Published May, 2002 


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