Aspergers and Comorbid Bipolar

Pediatric bipolar Disorder and Aspergers (high functioning autism) are extremely similar in the manner they're treated because their symptoms are similar. But exactly what are these two disorders and how are they related?

Because the symptoms of Aspergers and bipolar disorder can be very similar, it is common for individuals to be clinically determined to have one or the other when they really have both. It is not unusual for the two disorders to occur together, but having comorbid disorders presents even more difficulties in treating and coping with the conditions.

Pediatric bipolar disorder, or better known as manic depression, is an illness that may present as a mood swings or mood cycling. Clients who are suffering from pediatric type one are apt to have episodes of mania with alternating with episodes of melancholy. Clients with pediatric type two experience the thralls of depression with alternating episodes of mania.

Aspergers is linked to autism and is reported to be a mild form of the condition. It's actually a form of pervasive development disorder that triggers development issues particularly where the areas of communication and interpersonal development are concerned.

What are the signs of depression and mania in Bipolar Disorder?

Depression signs consist of: anger, extreme sadness, sleeping too much and feelings of worthlessness. Mania signs are: rage, extreme happiness, increased energy, hyperactivity, distractibility, sleeping too little and obsessive behaviors.

The disorder is brought on by four different factors. They are: neurological, biological, emotional and environmental. Yet not all of these factors can be found in every single case. Since little is recognized about the disorder, advances are still being made in this part.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by strong variations in mood, between intense highs (mania) and lows (depression). Manic states are marked by intense happiness or irritability, racing thoughts, the feeling that you need to do a hundred or so things simultaneously, an inability to focus on anything, bad judgment, increased risk-taking in activities like spending, driving and sex, and insomnia. Depression finds folks feeling miserable for weeks at a time, convinced they are worthless or to blame for everybody's problems. They might have an increase or decrease in appetite or sleep, appear apathetic, and lose interest in things they used to enjoy. Severe depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. A mixed state combines both manic and depressive elements, with individuals often feeling worthless and sad, but taking risks and otherwise behaving as in a manic state.

What are the signs of Aspergers?

Symptoms of this disease include: social skill problems, repetitive behaviors or odd habits, communication difficulties and limited range of interests.

The causes of Aspergers are not well known but research has shown that it can run in families...meaning it is genetic. So this must imply that the condition is biological...so it is either neurologically interrelated or genetic, right? At current time, there are no answers to this question.

Aspergers is a developmental disability on the autism spectrum. Individuals with Aspergers tend to have one or two highly-focused interests and can talk at length about them, without noticing when others are growing bored or disinterested in the conversation. They're not good at understanding body language or interpreting facial expressions and may speak very formally, as if they're reading from an encyclopedia. It's difficult for them to understand others' emotions or viewpoints. They have a hard time understanding sarcasm or idioms (phrases like "piece of cake" or "hit the road"). They may move awkwardly, with a stiff or clumsy gait. Many individuals with Aspergers have distinct mood swings. The inability to understand what goes on in social situations can lead to frustration and anger, creating behavior issues and outbursts of temper.

What are the similarities between Aspergers and Bipolar Disorder?

Because of its similarities, Aspergers and Pediatric Bipolar Disorder are very similar and can cause a misdiagnosis. The symptoms that are similar are: odd habits, compulsive behavior and spells of rage. Both disorders tend to lack the social development skills as well as the educational, behavioral and anger issues.

Bipolar can be in combination with Aspergers and this is, most often, the case. However, it is not clear if the neurological factors that cause Aspergers are related to the chemical imbalances that are thought to be the cause of pediatric bipolar disorder. As research continues in the area of neurological, technological and psychiatric issues, some answers should be forthcoming about the disease.

It can be difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder or other psychiatric illnesses in someone who has Aspergers. Doctors may attribute their symptoms to the developmental disability and not consider that there could be another, undiagnosed disorder. Because individuals with Aspergers are often less social than people in general, their moodiness may not affect relationships--a key factor in diagnosing bipolar disorder in the general population. Depressive apathy may be seen as the social deficit in Aspergers. What looks like the compulsive need to know everything about a topic of interest, common in individuals with Aspergers, may really be the impulsiveness and compulsive drive of bipolar disorder.

Treatments behind both illnesses—

The treatment options for both conditions are similar; yet there are no prescription drugs for Aspergers but you will find medications to treat the symptoms of it. Considering that the symptoms of Aspergers are very similar to bipolar disorder, prescription drugs used for bipolar may be used for Aspergers.

With both bipolar and Asperger disorders, counseling treatments are used but with the medication. Most of the Aspergers clients don't get medication but counseling is required so clients can learn to cope with their diagnosis.

If you know of a youngster who may be displaying any behaviors mentioned previously, they should be seen by a medical doctor as quickly as possible to be diagnosed. When a diagnosis has been made, a plan for treatment can be developed. Any undiagnosed disorders for both can lead to real trouble for friends, family and the suffering youngster.

Prior to making a diagnosis, your physician must take a comprehensive medical history, including any psychiatric illnesses among members of the family. He will cautiously assess the symptoms, noting the severity and duration of mood swings and other symptoms. In the case of diagnosing kids, the doctor may observe their behavior over the course of several visits to get an accurate measure of their behavior. Thyroid problems can cause symptoms similar to bipolar disorder, so the doctor may order a blood test to rule that out.

There are medications available for treating bipolar disorder in individuals with Aspergers. Individuals taking medications for bipolar should be carefully monitored for side effects. Some antipsychotics commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder can cause involuntary movements in kids; the risk of this is higher in kids with Aspergers. Because of possible communication deficits, it's essential to make careful note of any atypical behavior in individuals with Aspergers who are taking any kind of medication.

Therapy can help you understand the symptoms and learn to manage them. Average to high IQ is one component of Aspergers, so therapy can be quite effective in teaching about the disorders.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to mention we've tried a few different medications to help my son w Autism and they just weren't working or he had bad side effects. But then his doc recommended trying Risperdal. Which is used to treat bipolar. My son is now a new child and living life to the fullest!! He has conversations other than Pokemon and Bey blades (not a lot but definitely more) he smiles, he gives hugs, u can touch him w out him freaking out, he tries different foods, he talks w ppl, his meltdowns are almost completely gone (he is only 6 so he's still gonna throw fits) he actually is interacting w other children, he talks w his doctors, he's no longer violent, his tics have even slowed down and the big one....he's now playing soccer!
Now I'm sure this doesn't work for everyone but my son is definitely a success story and our lives have truly changed for the better! I see my son living life the way I've always hoped he would. All from a medication to help him. I'm very thankful for that! I just wanted to share our positive outcome :)

Anonymous said...

my son asperger's/bipolar son has also been taking Risperdal and it has been a miracle med for him as well!!! I had not realized that one of his biggest problems is anxiety-which the Risperdal helps to alleviate. His ODD almost completely disappeared, and meltdowns/tantrums have significantly decrease in frequency. He is a happy child now!!!

Kalebsmom said...

Risperdal is a terrific drug, however, my son gained 80 lbs. while on it. We are now trying Trileptal and Abilify.

LilProdigy1915 said...

I just found out that I had Aspergers. For ten years, I had no idea. I thought the preference of alone time and dislike of loud noise was because of the PBD 1. I knew that I had co morbid disorders OCD, ADHD, and panic disorder, but I had no idea that I had this. So, what do I do now?

Momof2withasperadhddepression said...

Lil prodigy did u get help?

Catherine said...

I have another suggestion that our family tried with our son who is ADHD, Aspergers, OCD and in-process evaluation of bi-polar. Almost 2 years ago now we were at our wits-end trying to find a medication/treatment that would alleviate my son's constant anger & irritability. He has been taking Risperdal for many years & it has helped, but it wasn't a "miracle" situation that seemed to solve everything. We went GLUTEN-FREE. It is known that gluten, an un-digestable protein found in wheat & other grains, is a "poison" for the brain & body..especially for those with neurological conditions such as Aspergers or ADHD. It was our last-ditch effort. It seemed daunting because there are many things you just can't eat..but nowadays almost every store or restaurant you may go to has gluten-free foods & options. Anyway..It took a few weeks to "kick-in" but my son's anger & irritability literally WENT AWAY! His general mood was happy & at-ease rather than on a constant short fuse. His hyperactivity did not go away..but his antics became more silly & fun in nature instead of mischievous & problematic. He absolutely loves all the food too! So as I mentioned my son has other mental issues that simply going gluten-free will not resolve but as far as his general mood on a day-to-day basis, it has made an amazing difference!

Claire-is-the-moon said...

This has been a rather helpful blog post. Thank you. I grew up recognised as being on the Autism Spectrum (originally diagnosed with Asperger's at 14 before the classification names were rolled into Autism Spectrum, which feels more accurate to me anyways as "severity" in each area of functioning can vary day in and day out). I got diagnosed with Bipolar finally at age 23, but thanks to the Autism diagnosis it's cloudy for which number I am. I can reach really high mania and psychosis, but also really severe depression. And as much as I struggled in high school, it's honestly been harder to cope as an adult now that my bipolar has worsened. I've had no success with Lithium oddly enough, success with Olanzapine, but it gave me the shakes and made me constantly faint, and I gained severe weight. Great success with Valproate for mania management, Lamotrogine still pending for depression. I'm still highly irritable, and Abilify and Latuda sadly gave me heart issues. Based on the comments I may have to ask my psychiatrist about trying Risperdal.
In regards to people who've had success with gluten free, I don't know if this will be the same in your case, but for me it was more an issue with FODMAPs :) so if you're still struggling that could be worth a try, as long as it doesn't drive you crazy through restriction in what can already be a poor diet due to sensory struggles.
I've rambled and wasn't very clear or concise which I suppose is a trait of my two conditions haha, but I thought I'd add some of my experience and thank you for the article and everybody who already shared there's. As an Autistic and Bipolar Adult, here's hoping I can finally learnt how to manage these two things together

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