Can Other Disorders Accompany ADHD?
One of the difficulties in diagnosing ADHD is that it is often accompanied
by other problems. For example, many children with ADHD also have
a specific learning disability (LD), which means they have trouble
mastering language or certain academic skills, typically reading
and math. ADHD is not in itself a specific learning disability.
But because it can interfere with concentration and attention,
ADHD can make it doubly hard for a child with LD to do well in
A very small proportion of people with ADHD have a rare disorder
called Tourette's syndrome. People with Tourette's have tics and
other movements like eye blinks or facial twitches that they cannot
control. Others may grimace, shrug, sniff, or bark out words.
Fortunately, these behaviors can be controlled with medication.
Researchers at NIMH and elsewhere are involved in evaluating the
safety and effectiveness of treatment for people who have both
Tourette's syndrome and ADHD.
More serious, nearly half of all children with ADHD--mmostly
boys--ttend to have another condition, called oppositional defiant
disorder. Like Mark, who punched playmates for jostling him, these
children may overreact or lash out when they feel bad about themselves.
They may be stubborn, have outbursts of temper, or act belligerent
or defiant. Sometimes this progresses to more serious conduct
disorders. Children with this combination of problems are at risk
of getting in trouble at school, and even with the police. They
may take unsafe risks and break laws--tthey may steal, set fires,
destroy property, and drive recklessly. It's important that children
with these conditions receive help before the behaviors lead to
more serious problems.
At some point, many children with ADHD--mmostly younger children
and boys--eexperience other emotional disorders. About one-fourth
feel anxious. They feel tremendous worry, tension, or uneasiness,
even when there's nothing to fear. Because the feelings are scarier,
stronger, and more frequent than normal fears, they can affect
the child's thinking and behavior. Others experience depression.
Depression goes beyond ordinary sadness--ppeople may feel so "down"
that they feel hopeless and unable to deal with everyday tasks.
Depression can disrupt sleep, appetite, and the ability to think.
Because emotional disorders and attention disorders so often
go hand in hand, every child who has ADHD should be checked for
accompanying anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression can
be treated, and helping children handle such strong, painful feelings
will help them cope with and overcome the effects of ADHD.
Of course, not all children with ADHD have an additional disorder.
Nor do all people with learning disabilities, Tourette's syndrome,
oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, or depression
have ADHD. But when they do occur together, the combination of
problems can seriously complicate a person's life. For this reason,
it's important to watch for other disorders in children who have
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