Saturday, September 28, 2013

ADHD: Different Symptoms Does Not Equal Different Disorders

Many people are aware of ADHD and whether they believe in the prevalence of the disorder or not, there is no denying that some kids have something different going on with them. But many people don't understand the umbrella of symptoms that can be seen in ADHD kids or the additional disorders that can be associated with ADHD.

Let me explain- ADHD exists in the part of the brain that is also responsible for controlling sensory feedback, controlling thoughts, anxiety, and depression. Since it basically a chemically based disorder that relies on the levels of Dopamine and Serotonin in the brain and is found in the same area, it can "borrow" symptoms from these other disorders. Children with ADHD can have some obsessive compulsive tendencies or become anxious a lot faster and easier than children without ADHD. They can become depressed and even have ticks like children with Tourettes Syndrome do. That does not necessarily mean that is their Primary disorder, it just means that children with ADHD can show symptoms of these other disorders, yet have their primary diagnosis as ADHD.

It is important that parents and teachers acknowledge the possibility that their kids or students can exhibit other symptoms and they should keep track of them because the chance of developing a secondary disorder from the above disorders is higher than children without ADHD. Kids like my 7 year old can have the primary ADHD diagnosis early on and then start exhibiting another disorder that needs to be addressed with additional medication. We will be starting medication for his Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms soon due to the severity of it, yet we have managed his Sensory Integration Disorder symptoms through cognitive behavioral therapy. It really depends on what the child is experiencing and the options available to help those symptoms.

As a teacher to high school students, I generally see ADHD with some other diagnosis. Most of the time, it is anxiety or depression yet I have seen a Gifted student with ADHD exhibit some Asperger's symptoms with OCD tendencies. We address the issues that come up and help students monitor their own symptoms to determine what they need help with. Sometimes this means therapy, sometimes this means medication, and sometimes this means increasing their self-awareness about their triggers and learning how to avoid them. 

Since each child is different, they will require different methods and therapies, but I urge parents and teachers to become educated about the different disorders that exist within the ADHD umbrella so they can identify their child's combination of symptoms and respond accordingly.

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