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Keywords:

  • adolescent;
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder;
  • bipolar disorder

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the presence or absence of attentional problems and prior diagnosis of ADHD in a cohort of stabilized bipolar I relative to unipolar and normal control.

Method: Indices of attention were obtained from bipolar (n = 44), unipolar (n = 30), and normal controls (n = 45). Measures included: Freedom from Distractibility (FD) Composite Index of the WISC III, Conners’ Continuous Performance Test (CPT), Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), and a checklist measure of subjective cognitive/attentional problems (SIP-AV).

Results: Bipolar (6.8%), unipolar (10%), and no control youth report a prior diagnosis of ADHD. No significant group or sex differences were observed on FD Composite Index, various CPT indices, or the WCST. Despite normative attentional function by objective testing, subjectively experienced cognitive problems in the clinical probands were reported.

Conclusions: This cohort of well-functioning bipolar youth diagnosed on average 3–4 years prior to assessment do not possess attentional deficits based on a variety of objective tests compared to unipolar or control youth, but self report subjective difficulties in attentional/problem solving ability. In contrast to other authors, we do not find that bipolar youth have high rates of comorbid ADHD.