An estimated 50 percent of people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) also have other behavioral, emotional or academic problems that exist along side the disorder. Many times these other conditions or problems are not properly evaluated, and can complicate the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
These other conditions also make living with ADHD more difficult, because many of them hinder one’s ability to concentrate or control impulses. For example, approximately one out of four children with ADHD also have a learning disability, while many others have significant difficulty in school, including behavioral problems that disrupt their ability to learn in the classroom.
If treatment focuses only on the ADHD symptoms, it may leave these other problems untouched. Good treatments will ensure that strategies are put in place to help someone with ADHD with these additional problems.
People with ADHD also are more likely to have speech and language disorders and health problems such as upper respiratory infections and allergies. Many are at increased risk for accidental injury.
Still others with attention deficit disorder show forms of antisocial behavior and may actually have what is called oppositional defiant disorder. These individuals can be obstinate, aggressive, verbally hostile and disobedient. A significant number of children with ADHD also may develop conduct disorder. They may lie, steal, skip school or become physically aggressive. A careful initial evaluation can help tease out what is ADHD and what may be one of these other personality or childhood disorders, and develop appropriate treatments for each.
In contrast, others with attention deficit disorder experience extreme anxiety. They often worry unnecessarily or feel undue stress. These individuals also are predisposed to depression and low self-esteem, which can have serious effects on the quality of their day-to-day lives and dealings with others. Teens with ADHD may be prone to alcohol and drug use and abuse.
A small number of people with ADHD also have Tourette syndrome, an uncommon disorder characterized by facial tics and other uncontrollable movements.
Careful evaluation is required to determine the best treatment for individuals with ADHD who have co-existing conditions, and to rule out diagnoses that mimic ADHD. Sleep disorders, for example, sometimes cause fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, aggressiveness and memory problems. A trained mental health professional is usually best consulted to help conduct such an evaluation, one experienced in diagnosing and treatment attention deficit disorder. ADHD is readily treated by a combination of different forms of psychotherapy and medications.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Oct 2008