Health Guides: Help for Adult ADHD

ADHD and Coexisting Disorders

Other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can appear right alongside ADHD. Find out if a coexisting condition could be affecting you.

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As an adult with an attention disorder (ADHD or ADD), you have a few obstacles to deal with in your quest to live a productive life. You also have to be vigilant about staying on top of your symptoms -- lack of attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity -- so they don't get in the way of your goals. But the vigilance doesn't stop there. You should be aware that ADHD can come with other mental health conditions. According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, some two-thirds of children with ADHD have at least one other coexisting condition, and as adults, their lives continue to be complicated by these overlapping symptoms. Here, according to the National Resource Center, are the most common mental health conditions that can coexist with ADHD:

Depression & ADHD
Research shows that 47% of adults with ADHD are also depressed. ADHD usually comes first, and both environmental and genetic factors may contribute to depression. ADHD takes a heavy toll on a person's self-esteem, beginning in childhood. Because their social skills are often lacking, ADHD adults can be ostracized to some degree. As with schoolwork, ADHD adults inevitably mess up at work, forgetting an important task or missing a deadline. The resulting feeling that they can never get it right only adds to feelings of self-doubt and sadness.

Disruptive Behavior Disorders (Oppositional -Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder) & ADHD
An adult with ODD is argumentative, has a short fuse, gets easily frustrated and is impatient. Because people with ADHD have trouble regulating their emotions, those with ODD are quick to act out, becoming defensive over any perceived slight.

Bipolar Disorder & ADHD
This condition is characterized by periods of elation and happiness followed by episodes of clinical depression. During a manic phase, a person with bipolar disorder may go for days without sleeping, talk incessantly and rapidly and engage in extreme behaviors such as shopping sprees and sexually promiscuous behavior.

Anxiety Disorder & ADHD
People with anxiety disorder worry obsessively about a wide range of things, from work, to relationships, to the future. It's difficult for them to calm down and they often seem stressed out. Because of the constant tension, sleep can be problematic. A small number of people have panic attacks -- an intense period lasting about 10 minutes -- during which they feel their heart pounding, break out into a sweat and have difficulty breathing. Research shows that anxiety and ADHD are inherited independently from one another.

Learning Disabilities & ADHD
Up to half of children with ADHD also have a learning disability, such as dyslexia, which carries through to adulthood. Those with dyslexia may have trouble reading or calculating, but it's not due to a lack of intelligence. The impact on school performance likely contributes to depression as well.

Substance Abuse & ADHD
Researchers say that, due to the impulsivity that is a hallmark of ADHD, adults may have trouble regulating their behavior and develop a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Researchers also believe there are common genes between the two conditions. As a result, the ADHD child with an alcoholic parent is more likely to develop an alcohol problem as well.

Talk with your doctor if you think you have a coexisting condition that is compounding your troubles with ADHD. All of these conditions can be effectively treated. But untreated, they may exacerbate some of your problems.