ADHD and Multiple Diagnoses

Merely Me Health Guide
  • It seems that whenever someone tells you that they or their child have ADHD, there seems to almost always be an "and" which follows.   As in, "I have ADHD and Depression" or "My son has ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and a learning disability.  It seems more unusual to just have ADHD and nothing else than it does to have multiple diagnoses including ADHD.  And according to Dr. Thomas E. Brown who wrote the book, "Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults: "A person with ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people.  ADHD usually overlaps with other disorders."

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    In this article I will identify these other conditions and will provide you with resources here on Health Central as well as from national organizations to help.


    ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders:

    I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a parent say on support group forums or message boards for parents having children with special needs, that their child began with a diagnosis of ADHD and then was given a diagnosis later on of autism or Asperger's Disorder.  There is still plenty of debate as to whether an individual can have ADHD and autism at the same time.  Author Thomas E. Brown, author of "ADHD Comorbidities:  Handbook for ADHD Complications in Children and Adults" believes that you can.  Brown cites studies which say that "58% of the individuals diagnosed with autism and 74%-85% of those diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome tend to meet full diagnostic criteria for ADHD as well."  I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my son who has been diagnosed with autism does have most if not all the symptoms of ADHD.  This is not to say that people with ADHD will have an autism spectrum disorder.  Most will not.  But it is likely, in my opinion, if you have a child who is on the autism spectrum for them to have some if not all of the symptoms of ADHD.


    In addition to having difficulties with paying attention and staying on task, persons on the autism spectrum may also have problems relating to others, communicating or understanding both verbal and non-verbal language, and/or sensory issues making it difficult to process information.


    Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources:


    ADHD and Learning Disabilities:

    ADHD is not considered to be a learning disability but many children and adults who have ADHD will also have learning disabilities.  Our Eileen Bailey cites the statistic that as many as 20-30% of children having ADHD will also have some sort of learning disability.  In her article about this topic Eileen tells us that the types of learning disabilities commonly associated with ADHD include:  Developmental Speech and Language Disorder and Academic Skills Disorders which may affect the child's abilities with respect to reading, writing and mathematical computation.


    Learning Disability Resources:


    ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder:

    The literature on ADHD gives estimates that up to one half of children who have ADHD (mostly boys) will also have what is known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  As the name implies, these children may be described as non-compliant, stubborn, and prone to angry outbursts.


    ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder Resources:

    • Health Central's Eileen Bailey provides us with much information on this disorder which you may find here.
    • The National Mental Health Information Center provides both facts and support for parents who have a child with this disorder. For more information you can also call this organization toll free at 800-789-2647.


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    ADHD and Conduct Disorder:

    It is estimated that between 20-40% of children diagnosed with ADHD will go on to be diagnosed with what is known as Conduct Disorder.  This is a more serious diagnosis than Oppositional Defiant Disorder and typically these children, teens, or adults are ones who will get into trouble with the law due to aggression or violations of other's rights.  They may also engage in early substance abuse or sexual behavior. 

    Conduct Disorder Resources:

    • Health Central's Eileen Bailey gives us more information about Conduct Disorder here.
    • Mental Health America provides information as well as a crisis hotline number to call at 1-800-273-TALK

    ADHD and Anxiety and Depression:


    I happen to manage the Depression site here on Health Central and I can tell you for a fact that many people come to the site who tell me that they have not only depression but also ADHD.  In an article entitled, "For Many, ADHD and Depression go Hand -in- Hand"   the author cites the statistic that:  "According to studies, anywhere from 24% to 30% of patients with ADHD also suffer from depression."  And along with depression many people also experience anxiety.  Which came first?  The anxiety and depression or the ADHD is a question the literature cannot answer at this time.  But the good news is that there is treatment in the form of medication and therapy for any psychiatric co-conditions to having ADHD.


    Anxiety and Depression Resources: 


    ADHD and Bipolar Disorder:  

    It can sometimes be difficult to assess the difference between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder especially in children.  There may be overlapping symptoms such as high energy which may be part of ADHD or a manic episode in Bipolar Disorder.  One statistic given by the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Association is that:  "85% of children with bipolar disorder also have ADHD and up to 22% of children with ADHD have bipolar disorder."  Bipolar Disorder is generally described as a mood disorder where the individual experiences times of mania (excessive energy, rapid talking, engaging in risky or dangerous behavior, unable to sleep) and depression (low energy, sad mood, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and sleeping too much.)  Again there is treatment available for people who have both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in the form of therapy and medication.


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    Bipolar Disorder Resources:

    • Health Central provides both information and support to those who have Bipolar Disorder on BipolarConnect which is run by the John McManamy, award winning mental health journalist and author of "Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder."
    • The National Institute of Mental Health has information about the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and will also help you to locate affordable mental health treatment in your geographical area.

    It is clear that if you have ADHD there can be a host of other conditions that can possibly go with it.  We would like to hear from you now.  Do you have any other diagnoses In addition to your ADHD diagnosis?  How do you handle having multiple conditions or disorders?  Tell us your story!  We want to hear from you.







Published On: August 17, 2009