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Problems Related to ADHD

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ADHD is often present alongside other mental health problems, such as a learning disability or oppositional defiant disorder. When the individual is affected by such disorders, these should be treated in conjunction with ADHD, by a well-qualified mental health professional or team of specifically-trained professionals.

Some of the disorders often linked with ADHD:

Learning Disabilities

About 20 to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have a learning disability (LD). This is a problem that is unexpected given the child’s general intelligence In preschool children, this often appears as a difficulty understanding certain sounds or words and/or difficulty in expressing oneself in words. In school age children, reading or spelling disabilities, problems writing, and arithmetic disorders may appear. One specific type of reading disorder, dyslexia, is quite common. Reading disabilities affect up to eight percent of elementary school children.

A child with ADHD may struggle with learning, but he or she can often learn adequately once successfully treated for the ADHD, whereas a learning disability will need specific treatment.

Tourette Syndrome

Occasionally people with ADHD have an inherited neurological disorder called Tourette syndrome. This usually appears in childhood, and is characterized by multiple physical (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic. These nervous tics and repetitive mannerisms may include eye blinks, facial twitches, grimacing, clearing the throats frequently, snorting, sniffing, or barking out words. These symptoms can be controlled with medication. Although this syndrome is rare, it is common for people with Tourette syndrome to have ADHD. Both disorders will require treatment that may include medications.

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is defined as an ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures that goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior. It affects up to half of all children with ADHD, particularly boys. To meet this diagnosis, the child’s defiance must interfere with their ability to function in school, home, or the community and have been happening for at least six months.
These children tend to act in ways that are stubborn and non-compliant, and may lose their temper, arguing with adults and refusing to obey rules. They may deliberately annoy people, blame others for their mistakes, be resentful, spiteful, or even vengeful.

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a more serious pattern of antisocial behavior which may eventually develop in 20 to 40 percent of children with ADHD. It is defined as a pattern of behavior in which the rights of others or the social norms are violated. Symptoms include over-aggressive behavior, bullying, physical aggression, cruel behavior toward people and pets, destruction of property, lying, truancy, vandalism, and stealing.

These children are at a high risk of getting into trouble at school or with the police. They are also at high risk for experimenting with drugs, and later dependence and abuse. They need immediate help, otherwise the conduct disorder may develop into antisocial personality disorder.

Anxiety and Depression

Children with ADHD can also struggle with anxiety and/or depression. Treatment for these problems can help the child to handle their ADHD more effectively. This works the other way too – effective treatment of ADHD can reduce the child’s anxiety or depression through improved confidence and ability to concentrate.

Bipolar Disorder

Because there are some symptoms which can be present both in ADHD and bipolar disorder, it is often difficult to differentiate between the two conditions. For this reason, there are no accurate statistics on how many children with ADHD also have bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a condition defined by extreme moods, occurring on a spectrum from debilitating depression to unbridled mania. Between these states, the individual can experience a normal range of moods.

However, bipolar disorder in children often involves a faster cycling of the extreme mood states, even within one hour. Children may also experience the symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously. Experts describe this pattern as a chronic mood dysregulation, including irritability.

The symptoms which can overlap between ADHD and bipolar disorder include high levels of energy and a reduced need for sleep. But elated mood and grandiosity – an inflated sense of superiority — are distinctive signs of bipolar disorder.

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Problems Related to ADHD

Ben Martin, Psy.D.

Ben Martin, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice. He also writes psychoeducational articles about mental disorders and mental illness.

APA Reference
Martin, B. (2018). Problems Related to ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.