If you missed the first post in this series, check back to Maybe It’s Not ADHD. You’ll find two situations that can appear similar to ADHD but may be a completely different problem.
Your Child Has Significant Anxiety
Anxiety and ADHD can look similar at a quick glance – distraction, lack of focus, forgetfulness and increased motor activity. One particularly important reason for getting the diagnosis correct is to ensure that your child is not given the wrong medication at some point.
ADHD medication is usually a stimulant, and a child with anxiety may feel even worse depending on how their body reacts to this medication. Not only do they have the wrong medication in their body, they may also still need something to calm their physical symptoms. And in all likelihood, the things that are making them anxious aren’t being addressed.
If this sounds like your situation, consider any particular situation that may be causing your child to feel anxious on a regular basis – an upcoming move, a recent traumatic situation (natural disaster, illness, death, etc), bullying, divorce – normal yet disruptive changes within the family.
If you can identify something like this being a possible cause, take a look at your child’s symptoms again through this lens. You may identify a more effective way to help your child if you can address the cause of the anxiety.
Incorrect Diagnosis and Unnecessary Stigma
Another reason to be sure you get the proper diagnosis? Stigma. I make an effort to promote honest discussion about mental illness issues to reduce the chance of stigma forming in at least one more person. It feels like a drop in the bucket most of the time, but this is how it’s done – one person influenced at a time.
Unfortunately, the wave of mental health stigma in society can be overwhelming. Let me be clear – the real problem isn’t the ADHD diagnosis itself (or any diagnosis for that matter). The problem is the judgmental labeling and reactions that often go along with the diagnosis.
A child with a label of ADHD can easily be slapped with other unfair negative labels like “troublemaker” or “dumb.” Even when a child with ADHD has supportive parents and lots of positive abilities, the social side effects of an ADHD diagnosis can be troubling. If it’s a legitimate issue for a child, everyone involved needs to do their best not to make the diagnosis the center of attention. And if the problem might be something other than ADHD, there’s no need to put everyone (especially the child) through this processunnecessarily.
In my research, I also found this interesting article about medical conditions that can be confused with ADHD. Worth reading, especially with lead poisoning and several serious conditions as possibilities.
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Last reviewed: 28 May 2012