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ADHD Versus Dissociative Disorders

In a world with many different diagnosed ailments, it becomes increasingly difficult for physicians to identify a disorder accurately. ADHD and dissociative disorders may cause similar signs and symptoms, but they are two different conditions that require a doctor’s diagnosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, dissociative disorders are mental disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between memories, thoughts, actions, surroundings, and identity.

Individuals with dissociative disorders cope with life by escaping reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy, which cause issues with functioning in everyday life. Dissociative disorders are typically caused by reactions to trauma and help the person keep painful memories at bay. These symptoms may range from amnesia to alternate identities. Periods of stress may also cause symptoms to worsen and make them more prominent.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a more common but chronic condition that affects millions of children and may last into adulthood. ADHD is a combination of persistent problems that range from hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, to sustaining attention. Children diagnosed with the condition may also struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and typically perform poorly in school.

Subtypes of ADHD

The most common features of ADHD involve inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behaviors. The symptoms may appear before the age of 12, but in some children, they may be noticeable as early as three years of age. The symptoms are sometimes mild,  but in some cases, can be severe and continue into adulthood. ADHD occurs more often in boys than girls, and behavior is different in boys than girls. While boys may be more hyperactive, girls will typically be more quiet and inattentive. 

There are three subtypes of ADHD, which include:

  • Predominantly inattentive: A majority of the child’s or adult’s symptoms fall under inattention.
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: Most of the symptoms are impulsive and hyperactive.
  • Combined: A mix of inattentive symptoms and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

Coexisting Conditions

Those diagnosed with ADHD may also be more likely to have conditions that include:

Symptoms of Dissociative Disorder

Signs and symptoms of dissociative disorders will vary based on the type of disorder you are diagnosed with. While one person may experience one set of symptoms, someone else may experience something completely different. The most common symptoms, however, include, but are not limited to:

  • Memory loss of certain periods of time (amnesia), people, events, or personal information
  • Feel detached from yourself or your emotions
  • A blurry sense of your identity
  • A perception that things and people are distorted or unreal
  • Problems or significant stress in relationships, work, or other crucial areas of your life
  • Unable to cope with professional or emotional stress
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts & tendencies

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) mentions there are three major dissociative disorders, which include:

  • Dissociative Amnesia
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder

While some symptoms may overlap, the only way to be sure is to reach out to a licensed professional that can diagnose you.

Sources

Mayo Clinic. Dissociative disorders. (November 17, 2017) from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dissociative-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20355215

Mayo Clinic. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. (June 35, 2019) from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889

National Institute of Mental Health. Substance Use and Mental Health. (May 2016) from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health/index.shtml

National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorder. (March 2018) from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml

Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Stanford University. Dissociative disorders in DSM-5. Spiegel D, Lewis-Fernández R, Lanius R, Vermetten E, Simeon D, Friedman M. (February 1, 2013) from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23394228

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