Frequently Asked Questions: Coexisting or Comorbid Conditions

Health Writer

What does comorbid mean?

Co-Morbid conditions are when one or more conditions occur at the same time.   Many individuals with ADHD have additional diagnoses, such as Learning Disabilities, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorders, Substance Abuse or other disorders.

What conditions are commonly associated with ADHD?

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Tourette's Syndrome
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Substance Abuse

Some people estimate that up to 70% of adults with ADHD will be treated for depression as well, up to 23% will develop Bipolar Disorder.   Additionally, some research suggests that up to 50% of Adults with ADHD will have some type of substance abuse.   Learning disabilities are found to be more common in individuals with ADHD than in the general public.

What treatment methods are used when other conditions are present?

The general course of treatment should consist of determining which condition is causing problems.     If ADHD is causing problems in everyday life, then it should be treated first.   If however, an individual is suffering from Depression or Bipolar Disorder with major symptoms present, this condition should be addressed first.

The general rule of thumb should be to treat the most disabling condition first.

Why is it difficult to treat if comorbid conditions are present?

Sometimes an individual will see different doctor's or specialist for different disorders.   Patients should let each doctor know of all other treatment so that it can be coordinated and the patient can be treated in full, rather than different treatments that may conflict.

Why does one diagnosis seem to appear after another has been treated?

It is common for one condition to mask another one.   The symptoms of one may not become apparent or disabling until after the most severe one has been treated.   This is common with ADHD and Depression.     If an individual is first treated for ADHD and has those symptoms under control, it can become apparent that they are still having difficulty with depression.   It may have originally been assumed that the depression was caused by the ADHD, however, once treatment has begun, and the depression is still a problem, it may need to be treated as well.

Additional Resources:

Co-Existing Conditions

10 Medical Conditions That Share Symptoms with ADD/ADHD

Related Conditions Where learning disabilities meet support