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Disorders that are Comorbid with ADHD

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/27/2010

Many adults and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder experience other problems as well. This article is a look at those disorders that share comorbidity with ADHD.

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    Comorbidity with ADHD

    Patients with ADHD may experience other psychiatric and mood disorders. Comorbidity is a term used to describe having two or more diagnosable diseases and conditions occurring simultaneously. Comorbidity may be a little higher in adults than children. Comorbidity with ADHD is a known possibility for all ADHD patients. There are several disorders that may occur alongside the disorder.

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    Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder

    These disorders are commonly associated with ADHD. People with these disorders are known for defying the rules. Some may become violent and act out. Sexual acting out and substance abuse may also occur.

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    Learning Disabilities

    Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, may occur along with ADHD. Treating the learning disability can be easier when ADHD is being well-controlled. Those with learning disorders coupled with ADHD may find relatively simple tasks, such as writing short notes rather difficult. Other activities, such as learning to read or using new mathematical skills may prove overly difficult.

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    Enuresis

    More commonly referred to as urinary incontinence, enuresis can result in bedwetting and uncontrollable urination during parts of the day. This comorbidity with ADHD, specifically in children is still being researched, but there are some established associations.

    It appears that increasing numbers of children with ADHD experience enuresis. Both of these conditions are rather common so it is possible that coincidence is a factor, but many professionals are continuing to look for a solid and well-defined link between the two. If the patient's healthcare professional feels that a link is there, they may begin by treating the ADHD to see if it improves the patient's ability to control their urine.

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    Anxiety

    Before determining comorbidity, it has to be determined whether or not the patient's anxiety is situational or not. This means, is there anxiety due to their ADHD or is it separate? If their anxiety is situational, treating the ADHD may help to decrease the patient's anxiety. If their anxiety is completely separate, issues could arise if the ADHD is being treated with stimulants.

    Stimulants may actually increase and exacerbate the patient's anxiety and related symptoms. If the anxiety is deemed separate, the patient's healthcare provider may choose to first treat the anxiety, and then once it is well under control work on treating the patient's ADHD. Cognitive therapy may be used because it can teach the patient different techniques to control their anxiety.

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    Resources

    Watkins, C. M.D. & Brynes, G. Ph.D M.D. (2007). ADHD Comorbidity: What's Under the Tip of the Iceberg? Retrieved on November 22, 2010 from the Northern County Psychiatric Associates: http://www.ncpamd.com/ADD_Comorbidity.htm

    Klein, R. G. Ph.D & Biederman, J. M.D. (1999). ADHD Long-Term Outcomes: Comorbidity, Secondary Conditions, and Health Risk Behaviors. Retrieved on November 22, 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/workshops/outcomes.html

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