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


Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and patients often feel as if there is a black curtain around them. They are unable to lift themselves out of their depression. Medication is available to help manage symptoms of depression.

Some of the major symptoms of depression include:

  • Lack of Motivation
  • Thoughts of Suicide
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Inability to Sleep or Sleeping Often
  • Problems with Concentration
  • Withdrawing from Family and Friends
  • Lack of Energy, Inability to Feel Enjoyment
  • Preoccupation with Death
  • Weight Loss
  • Feeling Sad or Empty


Anxiety is the consistently and persistently feeling anxious, apprehension, fear or worry, even when there is no reason to feel that way.

Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling anxious for no reason
  • Constant worry or tension
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Physical ailments caused by worry; headaches, stomachaches, nausea, irritability

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Some of the characteristics of Oppositional Defiant Disorder are consistent disobedience, lack of respect for authority figures shown in hostile or defiant behaviors. In order to be diagnosed with ODD, symptoms must be present for at least 6 months. The patterns of behavior are compared to those of children the same age.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Easily angered, annoyed or loses temper often
  • Defiant behavior toward parents, adults and other authority figures
  • Has difficulty making friends
  • Argues often
  • Vindictive behavior
  • Often blames others for own mistakes
  • Consistently in trouble in school

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is similar to Oppositional Defiant Disorder but does have some distinct characteristics. It is more common in boys than in girls and is one of the most difficult mental illnesses of childhood.

Some behavior patterns associated with Conduct Disorder include:

  • Bullies or intimidates others
  • Instigates physical fights
  • Cruelty to animals or people
  • Stealing, fire setting, or destruction of property,
  • Often lies
  • Skips school or stays out late despite parental rules to the contrary
  • May have run away from home

Learning Disabilities

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, "A learning disability (LD) is a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to receive, process, store and respond to information. The term learning disability is used to describe the seeming unexplained difficulty a person of at least average intelligence has in acquiring basic academic skills. These skills are essential for success at school and work, and for coping with life in general. LD is not a single disorder. It is a term that refers to a group of disorders."

ADHD often causes children to experience problems in school and with learning, however, it is not considered to be a Learning Disability.

Learning Disabilities can be seen in all of the following areas:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics

For more information, resources and a supportive learning disabilities community, visit our partner site


(2001). LD at a Glance. from National Center for Learning Disabilities Web site:

(2007, April 5). Depression. from NATIONAL Institute of Mental Health Web site: