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ADHD: Coexisting Conditions and Learning Differences

“My main hope for myself is to be where I am.” – Woody Harrelson, actor and activist with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can coexist with any other condition or learning difference, but certain conditions are more commonly co-occurring than others. The most typical coexisting conditions and learning differences include anxiety, depression, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, mood swings, tics, Tourette syndrome, and sleeping difficulty. Some of the symptoms of ADHD may conceal certain types of learning difficulties and conditions, which makes them difficult to diagnose. After diagnosing ADHD, it’s important to remain mindful of this list of likely coexisting conditions and learning differences.

Anxiety

Anxiety can make everyday activities extremely unenjoyable for a child with ADHD. Separation anxiety, social anxiety, and general anxiety result in a fear of being alone, of being in public, or of what might happen, respectively. A child with anxiety worries inordinately about several daily activities, and accordingly, this coexisting condition directly complicates life at home, school, playtime, and sleep.   

Depression

Depression can make life with ADHD very tough. Children with ADHD often become depressed over the inability to control their symptoms or keep up with others in school. Depression is defined as a relentless feeling of sadness or hopelessness and can result in an extreme lack of effort or participation in routine activities. This coexisting condition is detrimental to a child’s emotional well-being and can have severely negative effects if left untreated.  

Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia

Learning differences commonly co-occur with ADHD, as they both are linked with executive function difficulties. The most common coexisting learning differences are dyslexia and dyscalculia, but dysgraphia and dyspraxia have also been known surface in children with ADHD. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with accurate word recognition and poor spelling. Dyscalculia is defined as a similar difficulty with numbers. Dysgraphia is characterized by an excessive struggle with writing, and dyspraxia is a developmental condition that affects physical coordination. These coexisting conditions can make school uncharacteristically challenging, especially when compounded with the symptoms of ADHD.  

Mood Swings

Mood swings are characterized by radical changes in emotion or energy, such as a sudden shift from happy to sad or from comfortable to irritable. This condition can result in excessive anger, temper tantrums, resentfulness, sadness, and other irregular behaviors. Mood swings can also indicate other very serious disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or mania. This coexisting condition can make both general conduct and personal relationships very difficult if left untreated.

Tics and Tourette Syndrome

Tics are sudden, intermittent, involuntary movements or vocal sounds. Tourette syndrome is a severe, diagnosable tic disorder, and though only a small percentage of children with ADHD have Tourette syndrome, a vast majority of children with Tourette syndrome have ADHD. If untreated, tics and Tourette syndrome can make social life very difficult for a child.

Sleeping Difficulty

A significant percentage of children with ADHD have trouble sleeping. Suffering from a sleep disorder can be both physically and emotionally taxing, especially for a child with ADHD, as they are often already hyperactive. If left untreated, this coexisting condition can amplify the symptoms of ADHD and is a major concern for the well-being of a child.

How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and attention challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.

Sources: CDC, CHADD

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