ADHD is significantly more common and is associated with worse outcomes in patients with bipolar disorder, according to Ross J. Baldessarini, MD, of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and his associates.

In a study of 703 patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BD) type I or II who were evaluated, treated, and followed at the Lucio Bini Mood Disorder Centers in Rome and Cagliari, Italy, 173 patients had co-occurring lifetime ADHD. Co-occurring conditions were more likely in men and in those with BD-I. The lifetime ADHD prevalence rate of 24.6% in patients with bipolar disorder is significantly higher than the incidence in the general population, the investigators wrote in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Patients with co-occurring ADHD and BD were more likely to have performed worse in school, have higher Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale scores, be unemployed, have lower socioeconomic status, be married, have separated, have substance abuse, have attempted suicide, and have hypomania, compared with patients with only BD. However, they were less likely to have an anxiety disorder or a family history of mood disorders.

“The association of ADHD with a less successful and stable educational history, more unemployment, lack of or failed marriages, and greater risk of suicide attempts and substance abuse indicates unfavorable effects of having ADHD with BD. Such effects may arise by the impact of ADHD early during development,” the investigators concluded.

The study was partly supported by a research award from the Aretaeus Association of Rome and grants from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation and the McLean Private Donors Research Fund. No conflicts of interest were reported.

SOURCE: Baldessarini RJ et al. J Affect Disord. 2018 Sep 17. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.09.038.