I have a problem. I have ADHD, and I have some anxiety issues. I also seem to have some depression, albeit very mild. But this, or these, aren’t my problems. Well, they’re my problems, but not the problem I’m referring to.
Follow along with my logic here, won’t you?
Ten percent of the population, roughly, have ADHD. I’ve read some statistics that suggest that thirty percent of all ADHDers have a comorbid condition, and fifty percent of persons with ADHD and a comorbid condition have more than one comorbid condition.
That’s fifty percent of thirty percent of ten percent, or one and a half people in every hundred (fifteen in every thousand for those of you who don’t deal with half people very well) have not only ADHD but also at least two comorbid conditions.
Obviously I’m part of an elite group, right? But am I? Here’s some more information to add into the hash, there is a fairly large area of symptom overlap between ADHD and depression. Also, an overlap between ADHD and OCD exists, and let’s not forget bipolar disorder and ADHD, some similarities exist there as well. In fact,most mental health disorders and conditions overlap symptoms with at least one other disorder or condition.
These overlaps are to be expected, after all we’re dealing with the brain, right? I mean, if there is a more complex set of functions and procedures, I’m at a loss to identify it.
So if you stick a wrench into one part of the gearbox (a spanner into the works for our UK friends) you’re going to get effects throughout the mechanism. And some of those effects are going to look the same no matter what part of the gearbox you’ve jammed. Certain things just aren’t going to function nearly as well, to put it mildly.
So here it is, my problem: If I have ADHD, and I suffer from an anxiety issue, is the symptom overlap between ADHD and depression added to the symptom overlap between anxiety and depression enough to skew my results on a depression evaluation quiz to make it look like I have depression? That is to say, even though I test positive for depression, is that positive test result due to my having depression or is it due to my having some depression symptoms due to the ADHD and more depression symptoms still as a result of my anxiety?
Lets take this to another level. If I actually am suffering from ADHD, Anxiety and Depression, how many more disorders could I test positive for. Are the symptoms enough to offer proof, enough for a valid diagnosis? Or is the cause of, say OCD, not a relevant particular in the diagnosis? If I have three comorbid conditions, perhaps I have four, or five, if symptoms are all we need for a diagnosis.
I’m not trying to cause trouble here. I’m not trying to question the veracity of currently used methods of mental health care, but I am trying to learn. I’m trying to see what is real, what works, what is good in mental health care. I know that the correct answer to the question: “Is a diagnosis based solely on symptoms a valid diagnosis?” is “No, but it’s a good start!”
And I know that an evaluation by a competent mental health care practitioner is another huge part of the puzzle. A psychiatrist or psychologist can usually determine which symptoms are caused by what and shorten the short list of potential diagnoses. So before you join me in the rarefied air of the fifteen in one thousand with three comorbid conditions, let a mental health professional give you a verdict. It could literally save you a lot of anxiety …
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Last reviewed: 16 May 2012