How ADHD Is Different from other Mental Health Disorders

How ADHD Is Different from other Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health conditions are a complex set of disorders. Included in the mental health disorders that NAMI explores are ADHD, anxiety disorders, autism, bipolar disorders, borderline personality disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and schizophrenia.

What makes these mental health conditions so complex is that they are often difficult to diagnose, have varying affects on people diagnosed with the same condition, and require different treatment options. While there are many differing variables, there are some common traits that appear to influence the onset of a mental health disorder including genetics, environment, lifestyle, stress levels, traumatic life events, biochemical processes, and basic brain structure.

For people with mental health disorders, recovery is possible and NAMI encourages people to seek treatment early and be actively engaged in the treatment process. The potential for a person to enjoy a fulfilling life with meaningful social interactions and productivity at school or work is achievable.

About ADHD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders affecting approximately nine percent of American children between the ages of 13 and 18. However, the average age of onset is 7 years old and symptoms of ADHD can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. In fact, ADHD affects approximately four percent of American adults.

The most common symptoms of ADHD include the following:

  • Difficulty staying focused and paying attention
  • Difficulty controlling behavior
  • Hyperactivity

In fact, NIMH defines three subtypes of ADHD that further identify the condition according to where most symptoms arise, including predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive, with most children falling into the third subtype. Symptoms of ADHD often begin in childhood but can continue through adolescence and adulthood.

Signs of ADHD

Because ADHD actually has a spectrum of symptoms ranging from inattention to hyperactivity and impulsivity, the signs of ADHD also vary but may include the following:

  • Being easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things, and frequently switching from one activity to another
  • Becoming bored with a task after only a few minutes, except when doing something enjoyable
  • Having difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Having trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seeming to listen when spoken to
  • Daydreaming, becoming easily confused, and moving slowly
  • Having difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggling to follow instructions
  • Fidgeting and squirming in their seats
  • Talking nonstop
  • Dashing around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Having trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Being constantly in motion
  • Having difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
  • Being very impatient
  • Blurting out inappropriate comments, showing emotions without restraint, and acting without regard for consequences
  • Having difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  • Interrupting conversations or others’ activities.

Often, many of these behavioral symptoms are assumed to be the result of a child simply having disciplinary problems or lacking social interaction skills. However, it is important for these children to receive an evaluation from a medical professional to identify whether ADHD is an appropriate diagnosis.

Differences Between ADHD and other Mental Health Disorders

Many mental health disorders share the common factor of interfering with people’s lives to such an extent that treatment is necessary. However, according to there are some differences between ADHD and other mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Some mental health disorders predominantly affect mood while ADHD affects attention and behavior.
  • ADHD is a lifelong condition with an average age of onset of 7 years old; other mental health disorders often have an average age of onset in adolescence and adulthood.
  • Some mental health disorders trigger states of acute distress followed by periods of time where symptoms are not as readily experienced. However, ADHD is a chronic condition.
  • ADHD sufferers often do not have as extreme mood fluctuations as individuals with some other mental health disorders.
  • While some mental health disorders cause people to feel lethargic, children with ADHD tend to wake up quickly and become alert immediately.
  • Additionally, some mental health disorders cause people to suffer with insomnia, but many children with ADHD can usually manage to sleep through the night without interruption.

While there are some differences between ADHD and other mental health disorders, it is important to seek professional help if you suspect that you or your child has.

Diagnosing ADHD

According to NIMH, the first step in diagnosing ADHD is to rule out other factors that might be causing the child to behave in a certain manner. These factors may include other medical conditions, a middle ear infection, hearing or vision problems, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, or having experienced a trauma such as a divorce or death in the family.

Once these other factors are ruled out, the mental health specialist will conduct extensive observations and questioning to determine whether the child meets the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Get Help for ADHD

Understanding, diagnosing, and treating ADHD is a complex process that can be overwhelming to undertake. However, management of this mental health disorder is possible and we want to help you get started. Please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment resources.