ADHD is hard.
It is hard to live with ADHD when you have it.
It is hard to live with ADHD when your friends and family have it.
It is hard to accurately diagnose sometimes, and it is hard to find treatments that work –because everyone is different and how the ADHD affects them is different.
But, ADHD by itself can seem simple compared to ADHD with comorbidities.
Comorbidities are ADHD’s mean, ugly cousin who came to visit and just won’t leave.
Comorbidities take a condition that is complicated but successfully treatable in 50% or more of the cases and make it incredibly complicated to live with and medicate.
The definition of a comorbidity is “an additional condition” or “two conditions coexisting at the same time.”
By itself ADHD can be life-threatening –or at least the side effects of undiagnosed and untreated ADHD: suicide, car accidents, drug abuse, etc.
But comorbidities complicate everything.
It is often hard to tell where the ADHD ends and the comorbidity starts which is why a knowledgeable clinician or doctor is incredibly important and why I don’t recommend going to a primary care physician for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
It took me six doctors to find someone in our area who could diagnose adult ADHD.
The primary doctor said I didn’t have ADHD because I wasn’t bouncing off the walls in her office at age 30 –hyperactivity is one part of ADHD that most people outgrow by internalizing the restlessness.
My psychiatrist who I was seeing for postpartum depression didn’t even believe ADHD was a real thing –yes, even many mental health professionals still do not recognize ADHD as legitimate.
The first psychologist I saw used the childhood ADHD diagnostic computer test for my evaluation and declared that I did not have ADHD –the kid’s test doesn’t work on adults.
You get the idea.
If it was that hard for me to get diagnosed with almost no comorbidities –I have some anxiety but not enough to need medication– then imagine how hard it is to get a child who cannot explain what is going on in their head a proper and accurate diagnosis if there are overlapping serious conditions.
If you think your child has ADHD –and especially if you think they have comorbidities– I implore you to find someone who is very informed about these disorders.
We had great success with a developmental pediatrician, a mental health nurse practitioner, and a psychologist who had ADHD himself.
They key to finding a good clinician in my experience is calling around and finding out what percentage of adults with ADHD are seen in that clinic. ADHD adults will not stay with a bad clinician. If they see a lot of ADHD patients and a lot of those are adults, you can probably count on decent treatment there.
The following graphic addresses six possible comorbidities, but these are not the only comorbidities know to hang around with ADHD. This is just a starting point to raise awareness of comorbidities. I encourage parents to do their own research.
Informed parents can better help their child.
Persistent sadness, Withdrawal, Changes in sleep patterns, Loss of interest, Talk of suicide, Problems in school
Anxiety Disorder symptoms:
Sleep problems, Increased irritability. Withdrawal, School refusal, Argumentative, Hair twirling, Skin picking, Compulsivity, Panicking
Bipolar Disorder symptoms: Bursts of energy and restlessness, Impaired judgment, Depressive and manic episodes, Severe mood swings, Family history of bipolar
Conduct Disorder symptoms:
Family history, Trauma, Harming others, Animal cruelty, Aggression, Disregard for rules, Running away from home, Bullying
Sensory Processing Disorder symptoms:
Sensitivity to taste, touch, light, textures, etc., Coordination problems, Too rough/gentle, Weakness, Alternating dominant hand in writing
Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms:
Aggression, Antisocial behavior, Impulsivity, Screaming, Self-harm, Resentful, Argumentative, Vindictive, Rebellious
Download the PDF: ADHD Comorbidities That Parents Should Be Aware Of
There is more information about additional comorbidities based on a survey of adults with ADHD in this post called Should I Medicate My ADHD Child?
You can find more graphics about ADHD here.
This a reminder that I am not a doctor or a scientist. I am just a writer and author making graphics and posts based on information I have read from leading authorities on ADHD. I encourage you to research these issues yourself and watch the Dr. Barkley videos at the bottom of this post called What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child for more information about the science behind ADHD.
I hope this information is helpful. If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook.