Your spouse says you’re obsessive about counting money in a certain way. Your co-worker has observed that you lose focus sometimes and appear to “zone out.” What’s going on? It’s possible you could be experiencing signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Fortunately, both conditions can be treated.
What is ADHD?
“ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.”
It’s widespread, with about three million diagnosed cases in adults and children, regardless of gender. But with time and care, the condition is treatable for most ADHD sufferers.
Some people, especially children, don’t mature or grow out of a lack of focus or disruptive behaviors. These symptoms persist, can remain severe, and can cause problems in all facets of their life.
ADHD affects millions of children and may continue to affect people as they grow into adulthood. Symptoms may include:
- Frequent daydreams
- Talking too much
- Careless mistakes and unnecessary risks
- Difficulty resisting temptation
- Problems with social skills and taking turns
What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a widespread, chronic, and long-term disorder where you have uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (known as obsessions) and behaviors (also known as compulsions) and feel the desire to repeat continually.
It’s less common than ADHD, with only about 200,000 documented cases in the United States each year. Research suggests that OCD may be caused by biology (body chemistry or brain functions), genetics (a gene that hasn’t been identified yet), and different learning environments.
“Most people have occasional obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. In an obsessive-compulsive disorder, however, these symptoms generally last more than an hour each day and interfere with daily life.”
Common OCD symptoms may include fear of:
- Losing control
- Getting hurt
You may also be obsessed with perfectionism and have religious or other obsessions.
Common compulsion symptoms include:
- Washing and cleaning
- Mental and other compulsions
ADHD & OCD
Both disorders are widespread and severe neuropsychiatric disorders. If you didn’t know otherwise, some ADHD symptoms could look similar, particularly in kids and adolescents. But ADHD and OCD are markedly different in brain activity and how they look clinically. ADHD is an externalizing disorder because it influences how people relate to their world externally.
If you have ADHD, you may be inattentive and can’t control impulses and dangerous behaviors. But OCD is an internalizing disorder, meaning if you have it, you may react to anxiety-triggering environments by focusing inward. People with OCD have recurrent obsessive or compulsive views and behaviors. They also demonstrate a reserved nature and avoid perilous or possibly harmful situations. With OCD, you’re also concerned with the penalties of your actions and try not to act impetuously. Also, not so astonishingly, people suffering from OCD avoid new behaviors and tobacco use.
Research also suggests that both are categorized by abnormal brain activity “within the same neural circuit” according to the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. They both show opposite patterns of brain activity in the frontostriatal system, the part of the human brain accountable for motor, higher-order, cognitive, and behavioral functions.
While ADHD and OCD are related with very distinct brain patterns, the cognitive effects of both are actually alike, particularly in executive functions like response inhibition, task switching, planning, working memory, and making decisions. Sufferers of both have steadily and significantly failed in assessments of executive functions.
Diagnosis & treatment
If you think you have ADHD or OCD, make an appointment with your doctor or mental healthcare provider for a diagnosis. A physical examination with blood tests may be recommended to ensure your symptoms aren’t caused by illicit drugs, medicine, another mental health disorder, or by some general medical ailment. However, no single test is available to diagnose mental illness fully, and the symptoms of both conditions can overlap. A psychiatric assessment is sometimes recommended for further diagnosis.
The most common treatment for ADHD and OCD is psychotherapy, which may be combined with treatment like ketamine therapy to control symptoms.
Millions of people suffer from ADHD and OCD, sometimes receiving a diagnosis for both at the same time. But that doesn’t mean either one should be ignored or allowed to ruin your life. If you think you have symptoms of either, ask your healthcare provider if medicine like ketamine is appropriate.