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General Review Article

ADHD with Comorbid Bipolar Disorders: A Systematic Review of Neurobiological, Clinical and Pharmacological Aspects Across the Lifespan

[ Vol. 26 , Issue. 38 ]


Federico Mucci*, Maria Teresa Avella and Donatella Marazziti   Pages 6942 - 6969 ( 28 )


Background: Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, disruptive behaviour, and impulsivity. Despite considered typical of children for a long time, the persistence of ADHD symptoms in adulthood gained increasing interest during the last decades. Indeed, its diagnosis, albeit controversial, is rarely carried out even because ADHD is often comorbid with several other psychiatric diosrders, in particular with bipolar disorders (BDs), a condition that complicates the clinical picture, assessment and treatment.

Aims: The aim of this paper was to systematically review the scientific literature on the neurobiological, clinical features and current pharmacological management of ADHD comorbid with BDs across the entire lifespan, with a major focus on the adulthood.

Discussion: The pharmacology of ADHD-BD in adults is still empirical and influenced by the individual experience of the clinicians. Stimulants are endowed of a prompt efficacy and safety, whilst non-stimulants are useful when a substance abuse history is detected, although they require some weeks in order to be fully effective. In any case, an in-depth diagnostic and clinical evaluation of the single individual is mandatory.

Conclusion: The comorbidity of ADHD with BD is still a controversial matter, as it is the notion of adult ADHD as a distinct nosological category. Indeed, some findings highlighted the presence of common neurobiological mechanisms and overlapping clinical features, although disagreement does exist. In any case, while expecting to disentangle this crucial question, a correct management of this comorbidity is essential, which requires the co-administration of mood stabilizers. Further controlled clinical studies in large samples of adult ADHD-BD patients appear extremely urgent in order to better define possible therapeutic guidelines, as well as alternative approaches for this potentially invalidating condition.


ADHD, bipolar disorders, comorbidity, neurobiology, pharmacological treatments, stimulants.


Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa

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