While it’s common for mental health conditions like ADHD and schizophrenia to co-occur, they’re not always inherently linked.

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia are mental health conditions that may impact the way you navigate the world around you.

Although comorbidities between mental health conditions may exist, it doesn’t mean that one condition will necessarily cause the other.

Research from 2015 suggests there may be some overlap between ADHD and schizophrenia. Yet there are distinct differences between the two conditions regarding symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.


While some symptoms of ADHD and schizophrenia may appear similar, there are a few fundamental differences.


Both ADHD and schizophrenia may affect memory and attention.

In some cases, ADHD and schizophrenia may be co-occurring. ADHD may also be paired with other forms of psychosis, which may be caused by specific lifestyle factors.

For instance, a 2015 study suggests that folks living with ADHD who experience hallucinations or hear voices may be linked to the use of illegal drugs, particularly at a young age.

Similar to ADHD, those who live with schizophrenia may experience difficulty:

  • thinking clearly
  • controlling their emotions
  • connecting socially with others


ADHD may impact a person’s productivity at work or school due to:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsive behaviors

Hyperactivity may fade as a person diagnosed with ADHD grows older, but inattention and impulsivity may continue.

Schizophrenia may cause hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking, among other symptoms that impact a person’s life, similar to depression.


Although there may be a connection between ADHD and schizophrenia, a diagnosis of one doesn’t necessarily determine the other. And untreated ADHD doesn’t always lead to psychosis.


Research from 2013 shows that people with close relatives with ADHD may have a higher chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Dopamine is also thought to be a factor in ADHD and schizophrenia. As a neurotransmitter (or brain chemical), dopamine may affect your:

  • attention
  • focus
  • pleasure
  • happiness
  • motivation

In addition, other research from 2013 suggests there may be perinatal risk factors involved in both conditions. These include:

  • low birth weight
  • premature birth
  • pregnancy complications


Although the causes of ADHD are not fully understood, research from 2013 suggests that ADHD may be caused by:

  • smoking
  • genetic factors
  • exposure to environmental toxins (at a younger age)

There aren’t any clear causes for schizophrenia, but genetics play a more significant role than ADHD.

For instance, a 2017 study suggests that schizophrenia is six times more likely to be diagnosed when there is a close family member with the condition.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), other possible risk factors for developing schizophrenia may include:

  • environmental exposure
  • substance use (especially during adolescence)

Diagnosis and treatments

ADHD and schizophrenia have different diagnostic criteria, with some overlap in how they’re clinically treated.


ADHD and schizophrenia require multiple tests to rule out other conditions before a diagnosis can be made.

Those living with ADHD or schizophrenia could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and support groups.

Those navigating either condition may also benefit from regimented schedules and sleep hygiene.


ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, while schizophrenia is often detected in your 20s or 30s.

ADHD can be treated with behavioral therapy, while schizophrenia can be managed with cognitive emotional therapy (CET).

ADHD does not have to be medicated, but a doctor may prescribe a stimulant to help with focus. Schizophrenia may be treated with antipsychotic medication if needed.

According to NAMI, suggestions for managing schizophrenia include:

  • managing your stress, as stress can trigger psychosis
  • maintaining your personal connections
  • considering involving loved ones in your treatment or crisis safety plan
  • avoiding substances, as they have the potential to interact with your medication

For children with ADHD, helpful suggestions may include:

  • seeking a family counselor to assist your child’s social development
  • engaging in parenting skills training to learn positive reinforcement techniques
  • connecting with your child’s school to determine whether an educational intervention or accommodation would be helpful

For adults with ADHD, creating reasonable routines alongside easy ways to stay organized may help you stay on top of things. Consider the following:

  • creating lists for your to-dos
  • keeping your calendar up-to-date
  • setting reminders in your phone

While there is no cure for ADHD or schizophrenia, the symptoms associated with both conditions can be managed.

Regardless of your diagnosis, it’s still possible to live a full life while managing your symptoms and treatments.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD or schizophrenia and are looking for one-on-one support, you may wish to connect with a mental health professional who specializes in CBT. A qualified therapist can help you with your next steps and ensure you’re set up for success.