ADHD is a brain-based disorders where the primary issue is the chemistry of the brain not functioning as it should. Because brain chemistry function cannot be measured directly, ADHD is assessed primarily through a life history of behavior.
While the diagnostic criteria for ADHD call for very specific observations, other conditions can result in similar behaviors as exhibited by people with ADHD. During initial diagnosis, the healthcare team will work to isolate the root cause of observed behaviors, and aim to establish whether they are best accounted for by ADHD, by another look-alike condition, or whether one or more other conditions may be present as well as ADHD. When other conditions co-exist with a primary Attention Disorder, they exacerbate the symptoms of and complicate the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, and in many cases necessitate a referral to a subspecialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or pediatric neurologist, if they are not already part of the diagnosing team.
Possibilities to consider:
- Thyroid problems
- Lead poisoning
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Learning disabilities
- Issues related to poverty
- Family instability
- A middle ear infection or other hearing problems
- Problems with vision
- A reaction to a trauma or major change, like a divorce or major loss in the family
- Depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues
- Any other medical condition that could affect behavior
Updated: 5 November 2014 by Jeremy Varnham