Bipolar disorder was once commonly called “manic-depression”. It involves episodes of abnormally high-energy alternating with depression over a period of time. A “manic episode” is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including feeling elated, irritable, angry, or fluctuating between happy and irritable throughout the day.
Among individuals with Autism, the symptoms of bipolar disorder commonly include abrupt increases in “pressured speech” (rapid, loud and virtually nonstop talking), pacing, impulsivity, irritability and insomnia. Some individuals with bipolar disorder alternate between mania and depression. Others never or seldom experience depression. In other words, they exhibit manic behaviors alternating with calmer, “normal” periods.
Studies have found that as many as 27 percent of those with autism may have bipolar disorder. By contrast, its’ prevalence in the general population is around 4 percent. Behavioral medications are often prescribed to help manage bipolar symptoms. The atypical antipsychotics risperidone and aripiprazole are both FDA-approved to treat irritability in children with autism age 6 or older. They may help bipolar symptoms; however, both medicines tend to produce significant weight gain and diabetes risk. WATCH THE VIDEO