Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder are two distinct conditions, but they have some symptoms in common and may also share some underlying genetic risk factors. People with autism are more likely to develop bipolar disorder, and vice versa. Studies suggest that bipolar disorder is relatively common among children and adults with autism, with up to 27 percent of people with autism also having symptoms of bipolar disorder. This is compared to the 4 percent prevalence in the general population.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but there may be several related factors that trigger the condition. Similarly, studies show that people with bipolar I disorder have autistic traits almost half of the time. Although about 10 percent of autistic adults have bipolar disorder, many more have other psychiatric conditions. No single cause has been identified for either autism or bipolar disorder, but genetics and brain function and structure are likely to influence their occurrence.
Recent studies show links between certain overlapping genes that may be involved in both bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This means that bipolar disorder and autism may share a genetic link. The idea that multiple mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and autism, occur at once may seem unlikely, but it is possible. Some symptoms of bipolar disorder overlap with ASD, but research indicates that these two brain conditions share some patterns of gene expression.
The presence of both conditions together is not common. Significant Minority of ASD Patients Also Suffer From Bipolar Affective Disorder, Study Finds. People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in different periods called mood episodes. For pediatric bipolar disorder, symptoms may become apparent as early as 5 years of age.
A study of 2,900 autistic adults in the SPARK research study found that 41 percent have an anxiety disorder, 39 percent have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 24 percent have obsessive compulsive disorder, and 20 percent have depression. According to Myszak, one of the main differences between bipolar disorder and autism is that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that has been present since childhood, while bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed sometime between late adolescence and early adulthood. Medications May Help With Extreme Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, But They're Not Enough on Their Own. The same study also found that bipolar disorder, in general terms, also manifested itself earlier in autistic people. Instead, antiseizure medications that stabilize mood, such as valproic acid, are often a better option for managing comorbid bipolar disorder and autism. However, if a person with ASD shows all or some of the above symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean that the person also has bipolar disorder.
A bipolar disorder gene sequencing study identified significant associations between the genes of autism and bipolar disorder, indicating a genetic overlap that could also support the overlap of the symptoms of the two conditions. There are no guidelines for treatment and support for autistic people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Although it is important to recognize the potential overlap between these two conditions, it is equally important to remember that they are distinct disorders.