Co-Existing Conditions

By Eileen Bailey

Co-existing, or comorbid, conditions are ones that exist along side another diagnosis.  This is also referred to as dual diagnosis.  According to the National Resource Center for ADHD, as many as two-thirds of people with ADHD also have a co-existing condition.  Some of the most common include: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and learning disabilities. 

Co-existing conditions present a challenge during the diagnostic process.  Some many have overlapping symptoms, for example, a symptom of bipolar disorder can be “easily distracted.”  Therefore, doctors need to look at family history and use questionnaires to help determine which, if any, disorders the patient may have.  Usually, treatment will begin the condition that is causing the most impairment.  For example, if a person has both depression and ADHD and is experiencing symptoms of depression that are interfering with their daily lives, depression would be treated first.  Once that was managed, the ADHD would be treated. 

Depression and bipolar disorder were once believed to have their onset in late adolescence.  This is now known not to be true.  These conditions have been seen in children as young as 7.  If you, or your child, are experiencing symptoms of ADHD and another disorder, it is important to have an accurate diagnosis.  Your family physician would be a good place to start, however, you may want to request a referral to a psychiatrist that specializes in ADHD and related conditions. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder was previously known as Manic Depression and is characterized by extreme highs and lows.  The individual is not able to manage their moods and can go from feelings of mania (excitement, giddiness, feelings of grandiosity) to extreme depression.  Medication is available to help manage mood swings caused by bipolar disorder.

Some of the major symptoms include:

  • Explosive Temper tantrums
  • Irritability
  • Oppositional Behavior
  • Mood Swings
  • Distractibility
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness
  • Racing Thoughts
  • Feelings of Grandiosity
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble Waking Up in the Morning
  • Sensitivity to Emotional Triggers
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