Co-morbidity refers to the medical term for two or more disorders that occur at the same time. Kids who have ADD/ADHD often have other conditions which also hamper their abilities to function successfully. Many people with ADD/ADHD often develop problems with regulating their emotional responses to their disorders and often it is precisely because of this that individuals with ADD/ADHD often develop further problems with regards to risk taking, impulsivity, substance abuse and criminal behaviour.
If there are co-morbid conditions present, it CAN make the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and the symptoms a bit harder to treat.
Here’s a very basic summary of some of the co-morbid conditions that occur alongside ADD/ADHD – I would LOVE to explore each one in detail (gosh, this post would be about 5000 words long if I did that) but I have instead done a VERY brief summary of each and I’ve added a link to some of them for further explanation..
I think that this is only natural for anyone who is perceived as OBVIOUSLY different – the rejection from society and peers can be something fierce and extremely intense. The perception that school is a negative and overwhelming place often adds to this. It is VERY important to distinguish between TRUE anxiety/depression as opposed to anxiety/depression due to ADD/ADHD because the treatment protocol will be different to someone who has anxiety/depression which is not linked to ADD/ADHD. In fact, if the Anxiety/Depression is linked to ADD/ADHD then it will become more manageable once the symptoms are treated.
Dyslexia/Dyspraxia/ Speech and Language issues:
These all fall under Learning Disorders. ADD/ADHD is not a learning disability as such but it CAN affect the individual’s ability to learn. If your kid is highly distractible and inattentive and impulsive and unable to focus then this will affect how they learn and absorb information. It also obviously has a direct implication on things like homework, projects, tests etc. Having said that, IF the individual has a true learning disorder then treating ADD/ADHD symptoms is not going to change that – therefore it is imperative that a true learning disorder gets distinguished from the attention and behavioural aspects of ADD/ADHD so that it can be managed.
Kids with ADD/ADHD and Aspergers share very similar behaviours so the two can overlap and many have actually have a dual diagnosis. Here’s a link that explains the similarities and differences between the two.
Sometimes the stimulant meds have insomnia as a side effect. The obvious symptoms of ADD/ADHD (hyperactivity, fidgeting and boundless energy) can affect a child’s ability to calm down and self soothe and therefore remain asleep. Sleep issues include things like bed-wetting and nightmares so if your childs sleep issues are a problem then DO speak to your Dr. Obviously the child who isn’t sleeping enough (and well) is going to have further problems in school and will have further problems with focus and paying attention.
May occur WITH ADD/ADHD or may mimic the symptoms. Often, ADHD in kids is while Bipolar Disorder in kids is under diagnosed. Again, it is IMPERATIVE that an accurate diagnosis is reached for the purposes of treatment. Stimulant medications used to treat ADD/ADHD is not helpful for Bipolar and will most likely intensify the symptoms. Here’s a link that explains the similarities and differences between the two.
Tourettes syndrome is quite rare but approximately 60% of kids with Tics have ADHD and in the beginning the symptoms can look similar to ADD/ADHD.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder:
This occurs in as many as 60% of kids who have ADHD and includes behaviours such as blaming others for things that they do wrong, aggression, vindictiveness and deliberately hurting or annoying others. In most cases, kids outgrow this by the time they turn 8. Symptoms tend to occur most frequently with caregivers or family and anyone that the child is close to. Here’s another interesting link.
Involves serious behaviours that include severe aggression to people and animals, deceit, destruction of property, serious violations of rules – things like shoplifting and running away etc. The rates of CD in kids who DON’T display hyperactivity is severely lower. For a long time I thought that CD and ODD was the same thing (they sound like they overlap) but it’s not. Here’s a link that explains the similarities as well as the main differences.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Again, it’s not uncommon for an individual to have both of these at the same time but having said that, it is imperative that a proper diagnosis gets made because stimulant meds used for ADD/ADHD can exacerbate symptoms of OCD. In cases like this, it is best to treat the OCD first and once this is under control, stimulant meds can slowly be introduced for ADD/ADHD.
Having ADD/ADHD can affect a persons self-esteem and levels of confidence. This combined with impulsivity and feelings of low self- worth can lead a person down the substance abuse path.
The co-morbid condition that Child1 appears to be struggling with (especially as he gets older) is anxiety. I don’t feel that it is OFF THE CHARTS enough for me to treat it with more medication and in fact, I am hesitant to fiddle with his medication dosage this time of year. He’s not at the point where he can’t get out of bed in the morning or where he freezes up in a new situation, and there are no panic attacks or other physical symptoms such as tummy aches etc. I mostly give him Rescue Remedy (also helps him to settle down easier in the evenings) and LOTS of reassurance and preparation for new situations - sometimes it means having to help him breathe through it. I am considering sending him for yoga but I haven’t been able to find a session at a time that suits us both. What we are doing at the moment appears to be working fine for him. Having said that, when we go for our annual Shrink appointment early in next year I’m going to raise it and see what we can do to help him. For the moment though, his teachers (and therapists) and I are just observing the situation and I have no doubt that they will talk to me if they feel that further intervention is needed.
Are any of these co-morbid conditions familiar to you? If you want more information on ANY of them, then I’d be happy to send you some cool links AND I’ll put you in touch with one of my Mommy Blogger friends who is SUPER CLEVER with this stuff. Just shout. OK?