ADHD is a neurobiological condition that results in hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive behaviors. ADHD may co-occur with other conditions. The simultaneous presence of more than one diagnosed condition is known as comorbidity. ADHD can present with a number of other disorders that affect learning, mood or behavior.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder both affect behavior. Individuals with ODD are argumentative, quick to anger and frequently challenge authority figures. They are often in trouble in school or at home, and have trouble sustaining personal relationships.
Symptoms of conduct disorder include aggression, lying, destructiveness and disregard for rules. Behavioral therapy should be instituted early for these conditions, as they can lead to poor outcomes later in life, including difficulty maintaining employment and trouble with the law.
Individuals with ADHD are also more likely to suffer from mood disorders, including the presence of ADHD and bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. The source of the symptoms must be determined to ensure effective treatment; depression or anxiety stemming from ADHD symptoms may resolve with ADHD treatment. Children with ADHD and anxiety may perceive their environment and the people in it as unpredictable, and feel unable to meet expectations. In these cases, treatment of the ADHD symptoms may help the affected individual to feel less helpless and isolated.
In other cases, depression and anxiety may require additional treatment. If mood disorders run in the family, or there are other reasons to believe that the mood disorder exists independently of the ADHD, treating both conditions may provide the best result.
Learning disabilities or language disorders can also co-occur with ADHD.
ADHD can worsen the effects of a learning disability; a child who already has difficulty learning may have more trouble when poor attention prevents him from absorbing information in the classroom. When ADHD treatment improves attention and reduces hyperactivity/impulsivity, children can use compensatory learning strategies more effectively.
ADHD and Autism
Autism is a neurobiological disorder that can affect language, social behavior and sensory processing. Determining whether a child with autism also has ADHD can be difficult, as children with autism may also exhibit symptoms resembling ADHD. As more is discovered about the genetic basis of neurological conditions like ADHD and autism, more links may be found. However, the behavioral treatments that can be so successful for treating autism (reinforcing desirable behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors) can also be effective in treating attention or hyperactivity problems.
Addiction and Eating Disorders
Adults and older teens whose ADHD is undiagnosed or unsuccessfully managed may continue to experience challenges, particularly in the workplace and in their personal lives. Individuals who have difficulty coping with their ADHD may self-medicate with alcohol, illicit drugs or food. Treating the ADHD and addressing the addictive behaviors in therapy can be helpful in overcoming these problems.
Other Comorbid Conditions
Along with the above-mentioned disorders, children with ADHD are also more likely to experience:
- Enuresis (bedwetting)
- Frequent accidental injury
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Tourette’s syndrome.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2004). Conduct disorder. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Conduct Disorder