Adult ADHD and bipolar disorder have a few things in common. For one, they are genetically linked. That doesn’t mean that they will always occur together or even that if you have those genes that you will get either one of them, but it does mean they’re related in some way. Second, they have a lot of overlapping symptoms.There’s excessive talking, violating social norms, inflated self-esteem and impulsivity. That last one can cause a lot of problems. Impulsivity often stems from boredom. For someone with ADHD or bipolar disorder, boredom can lead to making potentially devastating decisions.
The problem with our concept of boredom is that it’s very limited. It doesn’t just occur over an afternoon when social media just isn’t keeping your attention. It can also happen long-term. You can get bored with your job, bored with where you’re living, bored in your marriage. These aren’t just things that happen overnight. At some point you decided that this was the thing you wanted and at another point it just wasn’t satisfying anymore.
It’s these big factors that incur the most damage when boredom comes into play.
In a normal brain, decisions about things like relationships and employment and location aren’t made in the heat of the moment, and small steps are usually the key to solving the boredom problem.
Bored at work? You may ask for more challenges or start looking for a new job while you stay at this one. Bored in a relationship? Let’s figure out why and see what we can do. Bored with your living situation? Start by rearranging the furniture and work up from there.
That’s not how it works sometimes in the ADHD or bipolar brain. Impulsivity is high and careful reasoning can be minimal. Unfortunately, you need stimulation and you need a lot of it.
So, instead of taking the rational route, you do whatever feels best at the time. Finally fed up, you quit your job with no backup plan. You pick up and move; again with no plan. You have an affair instead of trying to mend a relationship. Or, if you’re trying to avoid these things, you turn to alternate sources of stimulation.
That’s why substance abuse is so high. It “solves” short-term and long-term boredom with synthetic stimulants. Except that it doesn’t solve anything, it just mimics a solution without ever finding one and can eventually lead to addiction.
If you’re lucky enough to avoid drug or alcohol addiction, you’re probably not off scot-free. You’re also more likely to be angry and aggressive. The longer you stay in a situation that bores you, the more likely you are to come to detest that situation.
Take your job. Your job is boring. You feel like a drone and you think that if you just had a different job that you would think and feel differently. This is why people with bipolar disorder and ADHD sometimes have trouble staying in a job.
So, you come to hate the job you’re in because it is keeping you from being so much happier and freer. The same idea applies to other areas of life as well. Then, detesting one aspect of your life has the potential to make you angry in general, and you may have trouble solving the problem without being impulsive.
But what if you’ve managed to make good choices and not taken impulsive action? Good for you. Now there’s the challenge of finding a solution. The best things to do in this situation are really general guidelines for anyone with mental illness:
This is now a cheesy, motivational poster-phrase, but it holds up. Take a step back and look at the whole board. Know your limitations and your strengths and act accordingly.
–Talk to a professional
Talk therapy is helpful for both ADHD and bipolar disorder. Talk it out before you act it out. You’ll often find there’s usually a good solution to a bad situation. Also, if your medication isn’t working, your doctor needs to know.
–Get a hobby
No kidding. (Be wary of choosing an expensive hobby if you’re already prone to spending sprees.) You may switch hobbies a thousand times, but they will keep you interested. There’s always more to learn and learning is great stimulation.
You can find me on Twitter @LaRaeRLaBouff
Photo credit: aboutmodafinil.com