Skip to content
Home » Mental Health Blog Posts » Autism and Bipolar Disorder — Everything You Need to Know

Autism and Bipolar Disorder — Everything You Need to Know

Two separate mental health disorders that both have extremely large impacts on a person’s life are autism and bipolar disorder.

A lot of mental health issues that people come up against can be co-occurring, and such is the case with autism and bipolar disorder.

I should note that it is not usual to have both of these co-occurring disorders, so those who do are amongst a minority of people with either autism or bipolar disorder.

According to autismspeaks.org, there have been a lot of studies that would suggest that bipolar disorder may actually be relatively common amongst adults and children who are also living with autism. 

To be even more specific, studies have also indicated that as many as 27 percent of the total population of people with autism also show signs of bipolar disorder.

If we are comparing the number of people who have both autism and bipolar disorder, you’re looking at 4 percent of the total population.

We will examine first each type of mood disorder separately and then dive into what it’s like for a person who has to live with both autism and bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar Disorder

For anyone out there who may have not ever heard of Bipolar Disorder, it is a common and significant mood disorder that will cause a person to have dramatic shifts in emotion. Bipolar disorder was once known as “manic-depressive disorder,” according to helpguide.org.

It’s not common to find people with autism and bipolar disorder, but it does happen.

Persons with bipolar disorder alternate between a frenzied state known as mania and episodes of depression.

While some individuals experience only manic episodes, many affected individuals rapidly alternate between these two states and experience great irritability.

Most people that are dealing with these extreme types of symptoms are often having them as a result of stopping taking the medication that was helping them start to feel like their emotions were much easier to handle.

People make the mistake of thinking that they are better, but all hell resurfaces soon after discontinuing meds.

Bipolar Disorder is something that I personally have been diagnosed with. I’d say I’m more on the cusp but have struggled with extreme mood swings.

People with bipolar go from two opposite sides of the emotional spectrum. It can be quite exhausting to hold space for a person who is at the peak of a manic phase. 

The emotions range from extreme highs, often causing a person to stay up for days on end. These episodes are followed by extreme lows with depression and self-doubt, and a person may stay in bed for days at a time. 

I personally never experienced the mood shifts at that level of intensity but enough to where a doctor suggested that I should take medication to help stabilize my mood.

I can say personally that even though I hate the concept of having to be dependent on a pill every day that it still has had a dramatic impact on my quality of life as well as my capacity to stay present. 

Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a developmental disorder that has a dramatic effect on how people learn and retain information, how they interact and communicate with other people, and just their overall behavior. It’s not common to find autism and bipolar disorder together, but it does happen.

Autism unfortunately is not something that will ever go away. It’s a lifelong disorder, and the symptoms of autism will start appearing when a child is very young, according to ada.com.

Unlike bipolar disorder, the pharmaceutical approach to autism isn’t something that you’re going to see as an effective treatment option for autism.

Although there isn’t a magic pill or a cure, therapies and support services dedicated to those who have this disorder can make their symptoms more manageable as well as give them a better quality of life. 

With autism being a “spectrum disorder,” it is important to have a basic understanding of what this means. People with a spectrum disorder have a vast variety of different symptoms and emotions with a variety in severity, according to ada.com.

A child with autism who can speak and communicate pretty well is going to be on the high end of the spectrum, while a child who may not be able to talk at all, unfortunately, would be on the low end of the spectrum.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that people can experience a wide range of symptoms and of varying severities. For example, a person with autism who is towards the high functioning range of the spectrum will have a good grasp of language, but a person towards the low functioning range of the spectrum may not speak at all.

According to autismspeaks.org, common early signs of autism include:

  • avoiding eye contact
  • unexpected reactions to sounds, tastes, sights, touch, and smells
  • reliance on rules and routines
  • becoming obsessed by a narrow range of interests and hobbies
  • having a strong negative emotional reaction to small changes
  • delayed speech and communication skills
  • being unable to feel empathy towards other people
I Am Not My Diagnosis — Check It Out

Autism and Bipolar Disorder

There is sometimes an overlap that occurs with people with autism and bipolar disorder. Many researchers would say that this is because of the similarities that can be found between someone with bipolar and autism.

Sometimes, people with autism are mistakenly diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, when in reality, it’s just the autistic behavior showing similarities in symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

Because of this common crossover in symptom similarities, people with autism are a lot more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder than a person who is not autistic.

A study from 2020 looked at the rates of mood disorders in people with autism from 17 to 43 years old. This study determined that people with autism were 9.34 times more likely to have a bipolar diagnosis than a person who does not have autism.

It is common for a person with autism and bipolar to have had a parent who has also been diagnosed with either one of these particular mood disorders.

Genetics has a huge impact on a person’s mental health diagnoses. If you have a parent with either one of these conditions, then it is quite possible that you might inherit the same mental health issues.

Many genes that are linked to bipolar disorder can also be associated with autism. 

When diagnosing either one of these mental health disorders, or dual diagnoses, it is common for a person to show early signs of autism at a much younger age than a person with bipolar disorder, meaning that the signs of autism are much easier to detect early on in a person. 

There are many treatment options available for treating people with each separate mood disorder as well as treatment options for a person who has co-occurring bipolar disorder and autism.

Like I said, it can be a lot easier to determine that a person is autistic as these symptoms start early on.

Sometimes a person won’t develop symptoms of bipolar until later in life, and it is extremely important to seek treatment if you feel like you might be experiencing some of the symptoms of mania.

Hopefully this was helpful in creating a better understanding of both autism and bipolar disorder.

Do you have autism and bipolar disorder? Let me know in the comments.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
nv-author-image

Ryan Henderson

Ryan Henderson is a magician and mental health advocate.

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x