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Differences Between Bipolar and Autism
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Bipolar and Autism (Connections and Differences)

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Bipolar and Autism are mental disorders that affect the lives of many people all around the world. Both autism and bipolar disorder have some common symptoms and may have some common genetic causes. Bipolar and autism are not the same but if a person has autism, it increases the chances of having bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder together.

There is no clear understanding of the connection between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder, but doctors who diagnose psychiatric disorders can do a careful analysis of the symptoms and will diagnose you with autism or bipolar disorder.

There are some common symptoms between bipolar and autism. Bipolar disorder and autism are two different conditions but overlapping symptoms of both conditions can happen.

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex, and lifelong neurodevelopmental that affects the social skills, communication skills, self-regulation, and relationship management of an individual. It is a developmental brain disorder referenced with a broad range of conditions, including repetitive behavior distractibility, and other symptoms occur that challenge the daily lives of an individual.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) grouped the conditions of Classic Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) together under one umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The number of cases:

According to the statistics, the number of cases of bipolar disorder is more than those of autism spectrum disorder. On average, 2.8% of the population in the United States is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, while 1.85% of the United States population is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders:

Autism comes with a lot of symptoms that can be spotted in a person and help the diagnosis of the condition. The common symptoms of autism include problems in social and communication skills, difficulty in expression and feeling of emotions, sleep disturbances, etc.

The broad classification of the symptoms is:

  • Social skills issues

  • Communication difficulties

  • Restrictive and repetitive behaviors

Causes of Autism:

There is not a single cause of autism. The major causes of autism or risk factors are:

  • Genetic

  • Nongenetic

  • Environmental

Diagnosis of autism:

Autistic people are usually diagnosed in early childhood. The diagnostic criteria of autism are defined by DSM-5 which is used by the medical professional to do an official and proper diagnosis of the condition after the conditions are identified in an individual by the person or by the caregivers.

The medical professional looks into the symptoms depending upon their prevalence and other developmental patterns of an individual while keeping into account the peer-reviewed studies of the symptoms appeared during the diagnosis.

Treatments of autism:

There are several proper treatment methods available using behavioral interventions for autistic children and adults that can help an individual manage their lives properly. Family treatment intervention helps to make better use of treatment by the combination of education and psychotherapy.

These treatment options include:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

  • Speech therapy

  • Social skills training

  • Occupational therapy

  • Nutritional therapy

  • Medication

What is Bipolar Disorder?

As the definition of the National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual mood swings, and shifts in energy levels, activity levels, concentration levels, and the performance of daily tasks and activities.

Frequent episodes of elation and hopelessness in cycles is the characteristic trait of bipolar disorder and hence it is named (bipolar meaning ‘two poles’).

Types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar disorder is one of the major psychiatric disorders. There are three types of bipolar disorder as per the severity of the mood disorders. These types show clear changes in mood, energy, and activity but at a different level.

The three types of bipolar disorder are:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder

  2. Bipolar II Disorder

  3. Cyclothymic Disorder

Bipolar affective disorder is used to identify a condition or episode of bipolar disorder out of the two poles of the condition.

Episodes of bipolar disorder:

There are three types of episodes that occur in bipolar disorder indicating elevated moods, depressive moods, and hypomanic moods. These types include:

  • Manic episodes (Bipolar I)

  • Depressive episodes (Bipolar II)

  • Hypomanic episodes (Cyclothymic)

In short, the overly joyful, hopeful, or overexcited state in bipolar disorder is called manic episode, whereas the overly sad or hopeless state is called depressive episode.

Causes of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar disorder is considered genetic and frequently it is considered an inherited disorder. The genetic factors account for 80% of the causes of the development of the condition. Out of all the psychiatric disorders, bipolar disorder is considered the most likely transmitted genetic disorder.

Familial bipolar disorder points towards the cause where any of the family members is also identified with any kind of mood disorder, anxiety disorder, or psychotic disorder.

According to a study, if the parent has bipolar disorder, there are 10% chances that the child born will also be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

  • A first-degree relative with bipolar disorder

  • A period of high stress, for instance, a traumatic event or death of a loved one

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Diagnosis of Bipolar disorder:

There are different methods and methods that can be used for the diagnosis of the condition. These methods generally include:

  • Physical exam

  • Psychiatric assessment

  • Mood charting

  • Criteria for bipolar disorder

Treatment options for bipolar disorder:

The most common method used to treat bipolar disorder is through medications like mood-stabilizing medications. A mood stabilizer is a widely used treatment option used and recommended by many psychiatrists in terms of treatment using medications.

The treatment options widely include:

  • Medications

  • Continued treatment

  • Day treatment programs

  • Substance abuse treatment

  • Hospitalization

Medications used for treatment are:

  • Mood stabilizer (e.g. Valproic acid)

  • Antipsychotics

  • Antidepressants

  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic

  • Anti-anxiety medications

Local support groups can also give a lot of help in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Can autism be mistaken for bipolar?

Can autism be mistaken for bipolar? The simple answer is yes. Some of the conditions that exist in autism can also exist in bipolar disorder which can result in misdiagnosis. Some of the symptoms or behaviors of autism, like irritable actions, abnormal pace, and rapid talking are also found in people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Can you have both autism and bipolar disorder?

Can you have both autism and bipolar disorder? It is possible that both bipolar disorder and autism co-occur. Research suggests that almost 7% of the people who are diagnosed with autism are also prone to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

It is also found that autism shares brain signature with other brain disorder like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Autism and bipolar disorder also share some gene expression patterns, though the presence of both conditions together is not much common.

There is a possibility that both the conditions co-exist in a person, but it doesn’t indicate that if a person has ASD, then he will also have bipolar disorder. Studies also found out that for more than 30% of the youth who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are also prone to be diagnosed with autism.

Does Autism make bipolar worse?

Does Autism make bipolar worse? As it can be guessed, the condition of a person becomes severe when both the conditions exist together. Comorbid bipolar disorder and autism create difficulties in the way your life is run in many areas.

A proper diagnosis by consulting with the medical professional, together with the diagnosis and treatment options can help the individual.

The following findings are worth mentioning when it comes to the existence of both the conditions together.

  • The depressive episodes in people who have both autism and bipolar disorder can become worse and can also lead to suicide.

  • The manic episodes in people with both conditions do not create that level of psychosis as for the people having just bipolar.

  • Increased pacing

  • Excessive impulsivity

  • Considerable focus on obsessions

  • Sudden reduction in sleep

  • Inflated self-esteem with the feeling of being greatest

  • Increase in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors

How are bipolar and autism connected?

How are bipolar and autism connected? Although bipolar disorder and autism are two different conditions with different diagnoses, there are some overlapping symptoms of bipolar disorder and autism because of which a person may be diagnosed with both conditions.

According to a study, about 7% of the people with autism are also diagnosed with autism, which accounts for 3 times more than the percentage in the general population.

Comorbid bipolar disorder and autism show different sets of symptoms as compared to the situation where a single condition appears as true bipolar disorder or autism. In a person who had comorbid bipolar disorder and autism, it is difficult to recognize mania, whereas manic depression is easier to identify.

A large, controlled analysis was performed in a referred population of phenotypic and familial correlates bipolar and autism and suggests some findings. The rates of cases when both ASD and bipolar disorder appear together.

Polygenic overlap also parallels in the shared molecular neuropathology across the major psychic disorders. If autism and bipolar disorder occur together, it results in increased impulsivity and there are medical associations between the symptoms of bipolar disorder and autism.

Bipolar disorder often appears during early adulthood with some chances of its appearance in children, whereas autism usually appears and is typically diagnosed during early childhood.

Wrapping Up Bipolar and Autism

Concluding our discussion, any kind of mental illness or a mental health problem like the disorders are serious. The proper diagnosis of bipolar and autism needs to be done for the effective intervention of services. Both ASD and bipolar disorder have treatment options available.

The condition becomes more complex when both autism and bipolar disorder exist together. In that case, when symptoms of bipolar disorder and autism overlap, you should only rely upon the diagnosis and treatment options put forth by your mental health professional. There is a connection between bipolar and autism, which must be understood, and that requirement of the reader is tried to be fulfilled in this reading.

If you like this article about Bipolar and Autism and would like to know more leave a comment below.

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