Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

It's Not Bipolar. I'm Just Excited!

Don’t you love when someone explains a complicated idea in a way that makes it instantly clear? That sudden, “Aha! I get it.”  It instantly makes sense.

This morning a friend of ours had to escort her mom to see a new therapist. Mom is struggling with anxiety. And she was upset.

Our friend was confused, “I would have thought she’d be happy and excited. New hope.” But my wife, Ava, pointed out, “When someone is struggling with anxiety, any kind of change is stressful. Uncertainty feeds the anxiety.”

The friend got it, instantly, “Ah… Of course.”

Ava understood because she’d dealt with her own anxiety a few years ago.

Complex Disorders – Simple Signs

I was reminded of an interview I did with Dr. Ari Tuckman, author of Understand Your Brain – Get More Done.

One topic we covered was the emotional sensitivity, or over-reactions, of people with ADHD, and even the physical sensitivities.

Another doctor, Kathleen Nadeau, had talked about being ‘overly-emotional’ few months earlier, and now I was asking every expert about it. The more I learned, the more questions I had.

Ari noted that this ADHD trait, our proclivity to explode from 0 to 100, (with anger, frustration, regret, sadness, and yes, even happiness, joy, and excitement) and just as quickly return to ‘normal’, was the main reason why a few doctors still believe ADHD is just Bipolar Disorder.

And understand, that I don’t know a lot about Bipolar, so I wasn’t sure I’d follow him.

Ari said, “There’s definitely areas of overlap. So folks with ADHD and folks with Bi-Polar have trouble with sleep, they have trouble with spending, um they have trouble about decisions… So there is a little bit of overlap.”

ADHD EmotionsIs it Bipolar? Or ADHD?

Ari went on, “But once you get into the nitty-gritty of it, they look completely different. For folks with Bi-Polar… there are these big swings. A big up. Then a big down. Then they’re back to ‘normal’ so to speak.” Waves up of and down. And the length of the wave, the duration of the ups and downs can be weeks or months.

“Whereas with ADHD, it’s always there, always there, always there. So this greater ‘emotionality’ that folks with ADHD have, it’s always present.”

“With Bi-Polar disorder it’s notably different. Anyone who knows this person well at all will say, ‘What’s wrong with Bob? He’s not really himself lately. He’s not really himself anymore. Things are different with him. What’s going with him?’”

“Whereas with ADHD, it’s, “Oh Bob! Yeah, you know, that’s Bob. He’s always like that.’”

This Is Me. Always.

I chuckled and smiled, “Ah! That makes sense.” (I didn’t say that out loud. I have to remain silent when we’re interviewing experts, which is hell.)

I thought about myself, and then two friends who had struggled with BiPolar. They were clearly ‘odd.’ They were ‘not themselves.’

For many years I assumed “Overly Sensitive, Over Reactive, Overly Emotional,” was one of those ADHD traits that didn’t apply to me. Like having a poor sense of direction. Or a poor sense of time passage. And ‘Physical Sensitivities”, well, I assumed that meant some kind of extreme phobia. Or maybe a peanut allergy.

The more I read, the more I heard specific examples of ‘Emotional Sensivitiy’, the more I realized that I was far more prone to ‘over-reacting’ than anyone else in my family.

The good stuff was exciting. The bad stuff was horrible. If something new came along, I wanted to dive in. If there was something to worry about, I would be spinning one worst-case scenario after another in my head.

OH MY GOD! I Over React!

Every person we interviewed had stories about ‘Walking on egg-shells.’ Or being told, “You’re too sensitive!”

Coach and Trainer Barbara Luther from ADDCA explained how her friends will preview new movies for her, to make sure it’s not to scary. If they think it will overwhelm her, they warn her and she doesn’t go.

I smiled, “Aha!”  No wonder I hate horror movies. I haven’t gone to a scary movie in years. There are a  half-dozen films I wish I’d never seen. Now I simply avoid them.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!  For the Third Time This Week

I could have made a living writing horror films. Or disaster films. Not about earthquakes, tornadoes, or giant comets heading towards the earth—anyone can make a scary movie about that.

I didn’t need a mountain erupting with lava. I’d make a mountain out of a molehill. The script for my movie would look like this

Fade up. A house. Evening. Lights are on. Dissolve to interior.


Medium shot of a handsome man. His name is Rick. He sits, alone, in the dark, staring, out the window, a look of terror on his face.

DEEP VOICE OVER: “She went out to shop. She said she was picking up a few groceries. She said, ‘Thirty minutes, tops.’ So she said…”

Close up on man, breathing. Panicked.

VOICE OVER CONTINUES: “But now, it’s been 45 minutes, and he knows something is terribly, terribly wrong. A crash. Robbery. Kidnapping. Terrorists. Aliens. Maybe all of them at once!”

Cut to a series of horrible accidents, terrifying scenarios, and disasters!

The man’s phone beeps. He snaps out of his reverie…It’s, a message. With shaking hands he reads it.

Close up on his cell phone: “Sorry. Organic veggies on sale. I bought a bunch. And hit the bank. Home soon.”

He collapses in relief.

Fade to black. Roll Credits.


Not the longest film in the world… Maybe I should make it a TV series. Everywhere something happens and our hero has a complete meltdown.

I’d watch that!… No, actually, I wouldn’t. I’d get too caught up and stressed out.

I mean, it’s sooooo scary!!!




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  1. danodea July 10, 2016 at 9:20 am

    (Part One)
    Now this finally makes sense why I’m always getting diagnosed as bipolar.
    My father was bipolar. His moods lasted weeks, sometimes a couple of months. Ever seen a man angry for a month? It’s not pretty, man.
    Me, on the other hand – I explode, and then it’s done. Even the longest episodes aren’t more than 60 – 90 seconds, usually far shorter (10 – 15 seconds).
    But, because my father (and his father before him) was diagnosed bipolar, almost every doctor I went to stopped there: “You must be bipolar because it’s hereditary.” And when I protested (I’ve known the difference for a long time), it’s, “Who’s the doctor here?” I didn’t know what I had, but I knew what I didn’t have.
    Besides, when you’re bipolar, aren’t you up sometimes? Just as my father could be angry for a couple of weeks, he could be so happy nothing bothered him for just as long (I was so glad my first cat accident happened during one of those times!). Me? I might be happy for a few minutes, even an hour or two – but never for even half a day. So what did the doctors say? “It’s bipolar without the ups.” Oh really? Then it’s “unipolar disorder”? Isn’t that just depression? Haven’t you ever heard of confirmation bias? Well, I can’t say I blame them, but it was frustrating.

  2. danodea July 10, 2016 at 9:39 am

    (Part Two)
    “For many years I assumed “Overly Sensitive, Over Reactive, Overly Emotional,” was one of those ADHD traits that didn’t apply to me. Like having a poor sense of direction. Or a poor sense of time passage.” – from your blog above.
    People have always called me overly sensitive (or at least, that was the nicest thing people said). So I knew; the diagnosis confirmed it wasn’t me being bad, rather that something really was going on that I couldn’t beat by force of will or by “growing up”.
    I think what you’re saying is that you have a good sense of direction and a decent sense of time passing. I can’t tell you what you’re feeling, but I have that. I have an excellent sense of direction; I can even tell you the compass points while underground, and I carry mental maps with me wherever I go (even underground). And I can tell you, within a 5% error, how much time has passed for a given period, so if I say “We’ve been talking for an hour and a half” you can bet it’s been between 85 and 95 minutes.
    In the same way, doctors have told me I “can’t have autism because you’re too articulate, too smart”. Well, they were wrong then, too. As in Part One, I don’t place a lot of blame on them; psychology, by the very nature of what it studies, is not an exact science. The human mind results from interactions between interactions; it’s unpredictable (except in broad terms) and extraordinarily complex. Each person manifests differently; it’s why I prefer the term “spectrum”. You, I, and others with ADHD share a lot of common issues neurotypicals don’t have – but we’re also unique to ourselves. There are things you “have” that I do not, and vice versa.
    Understand the common ground, learn from the differences, and we’ll be fine – all of us.
    Thanks for sharing, Rick!

  3. danodea July 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

    ROFL, in Part One I meant CAR accident, not cat accident!
    We never owned a cat, and you can’t drive one.

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