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What other mental disorders come with ADHD?

Is ADHD a Learning or Mental Disability?

Is ADHD a learning disability or mental illness? Read on to learn more about the distinction between the two.

Table of Contents

  1. what is adhd?
  2. relationship between adhd and learning disabilities
  3. adhd symptoms
  4. diagnosis of adhd and learning disabilities
  5. when a mental illness and learning disability occur together
  6. get treatment for adhd learning disability at amfm treatment
  7. Resources

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disability condition that is characterized by excessive impulsivity and hyperactivity. 1 Those with ADHD may also have problems focusing on particular tasks or exhibit high inattention levels as well. ADHD is actually one of the most prevalent pediatric neurodevelopmental diseases, and it is most commonly diagnosed in children. ADHD also affects a lot of adults as well. 2

Myths and Stereotypes Surrounding ADHD

Some people believe ADHD is a learning disability because of the adverse effects it has on successful learning; however, it is actually classified as a mental health disorder. This is a common misconception because there is a lack of awareness of what learning disabilities are.

Although learning disabilities have existed for a very long time, there has recently been an increased focus on mental and learning disabilities. This is unsurprising, seeing as these disabilities often have far-reaching effects on society as a whole. There are several different learning and mental disabilities that have seen an increase of focus in recent years, including ADHD.

It should be noted that although learning and mental disabilities may have some areas of overlap, they are quite different.

Table of Contents

  1. what is adhd?
  2. relationship between adhd and learning disabilities
  3. adhd symptoms
  4. diagnosis of adhd and learning disabilities
  5. when a mental illness and learning disability occur together
  6. get treatment for adhd learning disability at amfm treatment
  7. Resources

Relationship Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a neurological medical condition that affects how a person’s brain receives and processes information. People with learning disabilities often experience challenges with learning activities such as reading, spelling, writing, and even mathematics. However, this is not a reflection of the individual, as their primary challenge comes from the fact that they perceive and retain information in a different way than most of society attributes for.

Children diagnosed with ADHD

Various Facets of ADHD and Learning

From the above explanation of what learning disorders are, ADHD cannot be strictly classified as a learning disorder. However, ADHD as a disability does significantly impact learning success or failure. This is one major reason why several people have mistaken ADHD as a mental illness instead of a learning disability. To learn new things, you will need to employ your brain’s executive functions, including the capacity to concentrate, engage your working memory, and focus. Unfortunately, ADHD causes significant impairment of these executive functions and this, in turn, affects learning, which is the main area of overlap between learning disabilities and ADHD developmental disorder. 3

ADHD Symptoms

Although ADHD does not have a cure, there are several treatment options that could help improve the interaction and learning abilities of people with this mental disability. Paying attention to symptoms for ADHD are essential for early detection and treatment. As with several other mental health and learning disability conditions, ADHD mental illness has both mild and severe symptoms.

Mild and Severe Symptoms

Some of these mild and severe ADHD symptoms include the following:

  • Unwillingness to dedicate attention when necessary
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Lack of priority given where it is needed
  • Displaying a lack of responsibility and procrastination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty controlling emotions or managing moods
  • Easily getting upset or furious even when the source of frustration or anger is not obvious
  • Memory problems or cognitive separation from obligations 4

How Can ADHD Impact Learning?

Although it cannot and should not be strictly classified as a learning disability, ADHD can have a pretty significant impact on learning overall for many people with it. The symptoms of ADHD often affect many other areas of the patient’s life, and can sometimes present in ways that may not immediately point to ADHD itself. This is why getting a diagnosis from a doctor is important. The following are ways in which ADHD affects learning:

  • Reduced executive function (concentration, working memory, etc.)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Disorganization
  • Impulsivity
  • Lack of attention to detail

Diagnosis of ADHD and Learning Disabilities

The diagnosis of ADHD and learning disabilities usually involves a combination of results from multiple tests. An ADHD diagnosis test may include the following:

  • Physical health history: This will involve a doctor going over the recent medical history of the patient. An “active or full” injury-related medical history may be a pointer to impulsive behaviors. The doctor will also want to carry out physical examinations to ensure that there are no other underlying health conditions.
  • Academic history: Once the physical health history stage is completed, the next thing is to go over the academic performances of the patient in order to detect the presence of ADHD. Detection of poor academic performance and reading problems could be attributed to inattention or hyperactivity.

Other ADHD diagnosis procedures the doctor may carry out include neuropsychological testing, which may include an ADHD thought process evaluation, and a developmental history. This consists of the overall development of the patient, paying attention to emotional and mental areas specifically.

Children with ADHD Stats Report

When a Mental Illness and Learning Disability Occur Together

People with learning disabilities have been discovered to also, for the most part, develop mental illness conditions. Usually, these mental illness conditions – for example, depression – often occur due to the effects of the present learning disability and the hardships it may present for the patient. For instance, a patient with a learning disability that makes communication and connection with other people difficult can easily develop depression if they are reliant on that communication and connection for overall happiness. Because of the lack of exposure to what learning disabilities actually are and a lack of knowledge about their symptoms, most people generally end up writing off the symptoms of co-occurring mental disorders as part of the manifestations of the learning disability itself. 5

Conditions That Can Occur Along With ADHD

Learning disabilities are not the only conditions that can occur alongside ADHD. Other ADHD co-occurring disorders include additional learning disorders, social conduct disorders, mood disorders, and either generalized or severe anxiety.

Disorders similar to ADHD may also include sleep disorders, substance abuse disorders, and Tourette syndrome.

How to Manage ADHD and Learning

Although ADHD does not currently have a cure, there are several ways to manage it and ensure you get to still live life on your terms, healthy and free. Some of the methods of managing ADHD and learning include:

  • Educating parents and teachers about ADHD
  • Experimenting with ADHD management strategies (with the help of a doctor)
  • Therapy
  • Embracing a comprehensive treatment approach
  • Advocating for an individualized education plan if needed

ADHD Diagnosis Statistics

Get Treatment for ADHD Learning Disability At AMFM Treatment

ADHD is very common, and many people with ADHD have considerable, and often multiple, co-occurring mental health problems. Successful ADHD treatment will require access to quality care and support to ensure excellent management and treatment results for ADHD and any other co-occurring disorders as well. This is precisely what AMFM Treatment aims to help patients with.

At AMFM, you or your loved ones will experience a quality clinical and evidence-based mental health therapy that is perfectly blended with compassionate care. It is all tailored specifically to meet your treatment needs. Take the first step towards achieving that healthier, balanced life you want for yourself by contacting us today for ADHD treatment options.

We are here to help you or your loved ones every step of the way, whether that be with ADHD treatment specifically or with issues that have arisen from other aspects of ADHD, such as anxiety or depression. ADHD is very manageable, and starting treatment as soon as possible can ensure that you are able to live the life you want in a successful and happy way.

Resources

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/is-adhd-a-learning-disability-4116126
  4. https://montarebehavioralhealth.com/is-adhd-a-learning-or-mental-disability/#
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK401811/

ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a medical condition that causes symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is more often diagnosed in children, but adolescents and adults may also have it. Treatment includes medication, psychotherapy and complementary treatments.

  • By Michelle Llamas, BCPA
  • Edited By Anastasia Climan, RDN, CD-N
  • This page features 14 Cited Research Articles

Last Modified: April 6, 2023
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What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common neurodevelopmental (brain) disorder typically diagnosed in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million children in the United States have ADHD. Boys are more likely to have the disorder than girls.

Symptoms include trouble paying attention, being overly active and impulsive behaviors. People with ADHD may also have other mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, learning disorders, anxiety disorders and depression.

There is no cure for ADHD, though some symptoms in childhood may change as people grow into adulthood. Some people aren’t diagnosed until they’re adults. There are several effective treatments that can help both children and adults manage their symptoms.

ADHD Symptoms

ADHD symptoms fall into two categories: inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Common symptoms include a short attention span, difficulty organizing tasks, making careless mistakes, fidgeting, excessive talking, interrupting conversations and an inability to sit still.

Some people may only have issues with one category of behavior, but most children with ADHD show signs of both. Preschool-aged children most often show signs of hyperactivity. Symptoms in adults with ADHD may look different. For example, hyperactivity in adults can seem like restlessness.

Symptoms may appear as early as age 3, continue into adulthood and manifest as inattention, impulsivity and antisocial behaviors. Signs that an adult may have undiagnosed ADHD include challenges focusing at work, a history of struggling with academic performance at school and difficulty in relationships.

Types of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive or distractable, hyperactive-impulsive and combined presentation. The type a person has depends on their symptoms.

Inattentive or Distractable: Symptoms include difficulty focusing, organizing or finishing tasks, trouble following instructions or paying attention and getting off task and forgetting routines.

Hyperactive-Impulsive: This type includes more physical symptoms such as fidgeting, an inability to sit still, impulsivity, speaking out of turn, interrupting others and generally being restless. Young children with this type of ADHD may repeatedly jump, run or climb on things, leading to more frequent accidents or injuries.

Combined Presentation: A person with combined ADHD has inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

ADHD type may change with age. For example, children with ADHD who have difficulty paying attention in school may grow into adults who struggle to manage multiple responsibilities at work and home.

Diagnosing ADHD

Health care providers use a manual from the American Psychiatric Association called the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition,” known as the DSM-5, to diagnose ADHD.

This information is only for reference. Only a health care provider can diagnose ADHD. If you think you or your child may have ADHD, speak to your general practitioner for a specialist referral if needed.

For an ADHD diagnosis, symptoms must:

  • Begin before age 12.
  • Happen in two or more settings, such as home, school, work or social relationships.
  • Interfere with daily activities and functioning at home, school or work.
  • Not be caused by another mental disorder, such as anxiety, mood disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder.

Children up to age 16 must have six or more symptoms of inattention and/or six or more symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity to be diagnosed with ADHD. For those 17 and older, a diagnosis requires at least five symptoms.

What Causes ADHD?

Much like other mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, researchers aren’t sure what causes ADHD. However, several environmental and genetic factors could increase the risk of ADHD.

Mothers who smoke, drink or use drugs during pregnancy raise the risk of their child having ADHD, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. For example, a study in Pediatrics found children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are 60% more likely to develop ADHD.

Genetics and a family history of ADHD also play a role. Additional risk factors include low birth weight, brain injuries and exposure to toxins in-utero.

Taking certain medications during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with ADHD. A 2017 study in Pediatrics found that taking acetaminophen while pregnant was associated with a greater risk of ADHD in children.

Treating ADHD

ADHD treatment involves a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. For most people, medication for ADHD is the first line of therapy. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are the most prescribed medications.

In October 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a shortage of the active ingredient in Adderall, immediate-release amphetamine salts.

Medical providers usually recommend medication combined with therapy. However, for children younger than age 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends therapy as a first-line treatment before medication. Types of therapy that may help with ADHD include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, marital counseling and parenting classes or support groups.

Managing ADHD

Managing ADHD involves using strategies to improve organizational skills and attention span. Parents and teachers can influence children with praise and reinforcement of positive behaviors. For adults with ADHD, keeping routines, schedules and lists can help.

Make sure to take medication as directed and keep all appointments with medical providers. There are things you can do to help manage your ADHD or to help your child manage symptoms.

Tips for managing ADHD include:

  • Assign a special place for paperwork, bills, keys and other important items.
  • Have a designated place for everyday things such as clothing, backpacks and toys.
  • Make sure you have plenty of reminders, using your smartphone, computer or other systems to keep track of important occasions and deadlines.
  • Minimize distractions by working in a quiet place or asking to work from home on certain days.
  • Schedule time for homework or paperwork, activities and fun every day and keep your schedule in a visible place, such as on the refrigerator.
  • Start and maintain a wellness routine that involves a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep.
  • Take things one step at a time, especially large tasks. Breaking down tasks into smaller steps can help you accomplish more.
  • Use lists and reminder notes to stay on top of what needs to be done.

A counselor, therapist or life coach can help you make changes and develop strategies for staying organized. Ask your therapist or other support person to help you think through decisions and consider the positive and negative consequences of your actions.

Adults should seek emotional support to counteract negative comments, thoughts or harmful experiences. Give children praise and discipline as needed, and be supportive and positive.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

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Health Problems That Happen With ADHD

If you’re living with ADHD, it may not be the only health problem you have. The disorder often happens along with other health problems.

Adults with ADHD may have depression, sleep problems, and trouble with alcohol or drugs. Children with ADHD may have these health problems, too. Plus, they are more likely than other kids to have behavior disorders.

These issues may have similar symptoms as ADHD, so it can be hard to tell the difference. If you or your child has ADHD, be honest with your doctor about any worrisome thoughts, moods, or behaviors. That way, your doctor can decide if you need treatment for a separate condition.

Depression in Adults With ADHD

ADHD may make you feel sad or frustrated at times. But clinical depression, also called major depression, is different. It’s usually severe enough to cause problems with day-to-day life, including work, school, relationships, and social activities.

As many as 70% of people with ADHD will get treated for depression at some point. Symptoms include:

  • You feel sad, hopeless, or empty most of the time.
  • You don’t enjoy most activities.
  • You lose or gain a lot of weight.
  • You feel sleepy during the day and can’t sleep at night.
  • You pace, wring your hands, or do other mindless motions.

If you have some of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, don’t assume it’s because of ADHD. Make an appointment to see your doctor.

Depression in Children With ADHD

It may not be as easy to notice depression in children as it is in adults. Symptoms can include irritability or hyperactivity, which are also part of ADHD. That can make it challenging to know which problem is affecting your child.

But it’s important to watch for symptoms so your child can get the right diagnosis. Work with your child’s doctor, who ideally will have experience treating ADHD and depression. If your child does have depression, therapy and sometimes medication can help manage it.

Sleep Problems

Sleep problems are common among adults, especially those with ADHD. But kids who have ADHD can have trouble getting enough rest, too. In fact, they may be two to three times more likely to have sleep problems than kids who don’t have ADHD.

Why is a good night’s sleep hard to get with this disorder? Scientists don’t have a clear answer, but a few things could be at work.

  • Stimulants. Caffeine is a stimulant. So are some medications for ADHD. Putting either or both into your system can lead to restless nights.
  • Depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions, which commonly happen with ADHD, may cause insomnia.
  • Restless legs syndrome. The nerve condition causes uncomfortable sensations when you’re at rest and the urge to move your legs for relief.
  • Sleep-disordered breathing. This includes several conditions, including primary snoring and sleep apnea. Around 30% of kids with ADHD have sleep-disordered breathing, compared with 3% of all kids.
  • Circadian-rhythm sleep disorders. In a common form of this disorder, the body has a delayed sleep-wake cycle. In other words, your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is set to go to sleep later and wake up later than normal. As a result, you may have a hard time both falling asleep and waking up.

Experts say that efforts to improve sleep should be part of the treatment plan for many with ADHD. Some tips that can help:

  • Practice good sleep habits (limit screen time, keep a regular schedule, limit caffeine).
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
  • Get lots of exercise, but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime.

Don’t take sleep medications or supplements without talking to your doctor first.

Severe Behavior Problems

Some people with ADHD also have separate, severe behavior problems known as disruptive behavior disorders. There are two types.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As many as half of all children with ADHD may also have ODD, when kids display these behaviors for at least 6 months:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Arguing with adults
  • Refusing to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Purposely annoying people
  • Blaming others for their bad behavior
  • Showing anger, resentment, or spite

Conduct disorder (CD). Sometimes ODD can turn into CD, which is more extreme. It may happen in as many as 25% of children and 45% of teens with ADHD. Signs include:

  • Aggressive behavior toward people or animals
  • Destroying property
  • Stealing
  • Skipping school

Because ODD and CD often happen with ADHD, it’s important to tell your child’s doctor about any warning signs as soon as you notice them. Interventions like parent training and support at school can make a difference.

Other Health Problems

Other health issues that can affect adults and children with ADHD include:

  • Mood disorders. Your mood may swing to extremes more often and more quickly than seems normal or appropriate. A child might be in a bad mood or cry more often.
  • Anxiety. You may worry more than you need to about issues in your life. Over time, this can leave you irritable, stressed, and tired.
  • Personality disorders. This group of conditions tends to make you less flexible when something doesn’t go as planned. You may respond in ways that other people find odd or harmful, and struggle to build healthy relationships.
  • Social phobia. You get anxious about being in places and situations, like school or work, where you have to interact with other people, especially those you might not know.
  • Separation anxiety. You get anxious when you’re away from family or even consider the possibility.
  • Learning disorders. About half of all kids with ADHD also have a learning disorder. That means they acquire or use new information in a different way. Common learning disorders include dyslexia (difficulty reading) and dyscalculia (difficulty with math).
  • Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). You may overreact emotionally when you fail to meet expectations (yours or those important to you). This sensitivity also might show up when others criticize you. Although it’s not a formal psychiatric diagnosis, it can describe a set of common symptoms.

Ask your doctor about important warning signs of these conditions so you’ll know when another problem may be affecting you or your child.

Show Sources

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: “Assessing Adults with ADHD and Comorbidities.”

CHADD: “Disruptive Behavior Disorders,” “Depression,” “ADHD, Sleep and Sleep Disorders,” “Coexisting Conditions.”

Mayo Clinic: “Clinical Depression: What Does That Mean?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Personality Disorders.”

CDC: “Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

CHConline.org: “ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.”

BMC Psychiatry: “Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach.”

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