Is It ADHD … and Something Else?

Parenting September 29, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Common Symptoms of ADHD

Most parents have heard of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and can name at least some of the common symptoms. For example: 

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Appearing not to listen
  • Being easily distracted
  • Failing to notice details or making careless mistakes
  • Fidgeting or squirming while sitting
  • Having a hard time remaining seated
  • Running or climbing more than other children

Some of these same symptoms could also be a sign of a second problem that is not ADHD. (Doctors call this a “co-occurring” condition or a “co-morbid” condition.) In fact, about two out of three children with ADHD have a co-occurring condition, or even several of them, that also need attention.

These co-occurring problems are often just as treatable as ADHD, but the treatments are different. Being aware of some of the more common conditions that can happen at the same time as ADHD can help you make sure that your child is getting the proper care.

ADHD Co-occurring Conditions

The most common secondary problems are:

Below are some of the symptoms of these secondary problems that can often look like ADHD.

ODD and ADHD. Children with both ODD and ADHD often try to break rules without getting caught. They may argue more, be aggressive, break things on purpose, lie or steal, run away, skip school, or break curfews. 

Depression and ADHD. Physical agitation and poor concentration are signs of both depression and ADHD. Children with ADHD may become depressed from repeated failures or negative experiences in school, at home, and in other settings.

Anxiety Disorders and ADHD. Children with anxiety disorders often worry more than normal. They may feel edgy, stressed out or tired, tense, and have trouble getting restful sleep. Some might have panic attacks.

Tics and ADHD. Tics are mannerisms or movements such as excessive eye blinking or throat clearing. About seven percent of children with ADHD also have tics. Sometimes the medicines used to treat ADHD can make tics more obvious but they do not make tics happen.

Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. Tourette Syndrome is much less common, but a more severe tic disorder. Tics and Tourette Syndrome can be startling to see happen, but generally they are not harmful.  Most children outgrow tics and there are good options to treat Tourette Syndrome.

Sleep Problems and ADHD. Children with or without ADHD can have sleep problems. In addition to having trouble falling and staying asleep, sleep problems may also include:

  • Moving around more while sleeping
  • Jumpy leg movements during sleep
  • Unstable sleep patterns
  • Feeling more sleepy than other children during the daytime

When to Seek Medical Attention

Other problems can happen with ADHD, in addition to the ones already listed. If you see symptoms of other problems, or if your child is being treated for ADHD and continues to struggle, talk with your health care provider. If necessary, ask to be referred to a specialist who is up-to-date about ADHD and secondary conditions. It may be that another problem is present and needs proper attention.

Source: National Resource Center on AD/HD

Do you have a question about what you just read? Talk with a health information specialist about ADHD concerns. Submit your questions online or call 800-233-4050. The National Resource Center on AD/HD has well-trained health information specialists who can answer your questions about ADHD, how it affects children, and evidence-based forms of ADHD treatment that work. 

For additional information on related topics, try these articles:

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.