The Similarities and Differences between OCD and ADHD

April 9, 2021


It is common for someone to suffer from both OCD and ADHD. The two are strange bedfellows, they share the same symptoms, but their effects on individuals tend to be different. 

According to doctors, it is normal for one person to be diagnosed with ADHD and OCD; this is known as ADHD-OCD comorbidity. Both disorders present the same behaviors, but you might realize that the sufferer only has one of the diseases if keenly checked. Although most people are misdiagnosed, whereby a doctor treats a patient for the wrong disorders, doctors advise that self-testing is the first step to take before giving any medical treatment. 

That is imperative as you are able to learn and understand why someone is behaving in a particular manner. At that point, you can tell whether the person has both disorders or one of them.

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Definitions of ADHD and OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) disorders result from a problem that affects the brain’s frontal lobe.

The OCD  and ADHD relationships are well described in this article. ADHD is a disorder caused by low norepinephrine and dopamine, thus causing under-activity in your brain. On the other hand, OCD is when there is too much serotonin that leads to over-activity in the brain. 

People with OCD tend to register unwanted thoughts and obsessions together with repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The victims will often use the compulsions to counteract their obsessions. Therefore, if not treated on time, they can lead to depression, anxiety, and other health issues. 

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ADHD is known to be a developmental condition. It makes people impulsive, inattentive, or overly active. At times, the victim can have all three symptoms. ADHD patients often have a difficult time at school, at home, and in the office. It becomes hard for them to stay organized or complete school or work projects. 

In cases where a victim suffers from both disorders, it is best to treat OCD before ADHD. The moment the OCD behaviors are toned down, it’s easy to treat ADHD. Otherwise, the stimulants might flare up OCD behaviors if not put under control first. When OCD has been treated, the stimulation can be reintroduced to treat ADHD.


Causes of OCD


There are approximately 30% victims of ADHD with co-occurring anxiety disorders like OCD. Those with low dopamine or norepinephrine and high levels of serotonin might have both OCD and ADHD. In such a case, the doctor needs to treat both conditions. However, it requires patience and skill.

When it comes to stimulants for OCD, Adderall can severely risk the symptoms of OCD. Combining Adderall with OCD  makes the normal function more difficult. 

However, doctors often prescribe Adderall to patients living with OCD in cases where the proper test is not complete. This is so because both OCD and ADHD present similar symptoms.

Therefore, combining Adderall with OCD only is very risky. 

Similarities Between OCD and ADHD

Here, we will delve into the similarities of both ADHD and OCD conditions.

They Both Affect the Same Brain Section

OCD and ADHD affect the frontal lobe. This happens when there is abnormal brain activity in a similar neural circuit of your brain. Therefore leading to prevalent severe neuropsychiatric disorders.

They Both Could Interfere With Your Lifestyle

Both OCD and ADHD carry out rituals, check behaviors, and compulsions that could interfere with your school or work schedules. This could lead to frequent mistakes that could ruin your relationship with people in school, work, or at home. The disruption could come in between your career and academic success.  

The inattention, compulsions, obsessions, and anxiety can paralyze their ability to follow through and focus on tasks. The conditions might even affect performance, grades, and attendance.

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They Affect the Ability to Be Attentive

The inability to be attentive is one of the critical traits of people living with ADHD. The patient could go for more extended periods without paying attention. When you call out their names, you might think they are snubbing you, but the truth is that they are distracted by something else. 

On the other hand, OCD can make someone inattentive for a different cause. They are preoccupied with either a compulsion or obsession such that they miss out on the things that are happening around them. 

Both Are Rooted in Gastrointestinal (GI) Issues

Studies claim that OCD victims have high chances compared to other ordinary people to suffer from irritable stomach syndrome. Also, people living with ADHD are likely to suffer both irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation. 

Both Conditions Cause Sleeping Problems

Some research shows that over 70 percent of people diagnosed with OCD have insomnia and several other sleep disorders. This can be so dangerous since if they lack sleep or fail to sleep enough, both ADHD and OCD symptoms could shoot, making it harder or worse to deal with. 

The Disorders Provoke Depression, Anger, and Anxiety

Stress could trigger the symptoms and signs of both ADHD and OCD; they tend to become worse than they were before. When people live with these severe symptoms, it increases anxiety to levels that are unhealthy and damaging. 

In other cases, the ADHD and OCD victims might suffer depression. You will also come across people with both disorders with severe and persistent irritability and anger surges. These might even trigger aggressive behavior.


Causes of ADHD


They Can Be Worsened or Caused by Trauma

There is a significant relationship between the emergence of these developmental conditions such as OCD and ADHD and childhood trauma. There is a history of childhood trauma that is popular among people diagnosed with OCD disorder. 

On the other flip of the coin, the ADHD symptoms found in children become ongoing symptoms, and signs in adults could result from traumatic events, especially neglect and child abuse.

Both Treatments Are Similar

After an individual is diagnosed with ADHD or OCD, the treatment given for both might be the same. This should include therapy, self-help, and medication management.

They Both Might Be Genetic

Both ADHD and OCD disorders have a vast and robust genetic element that runs in your family. Therefore, if diagnosed with one of the conditions, you should try and get its root. 

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The Differences Between ADHD and OCD Conditions

They Have Different Effects on Your Brain Activity

There are patients who are diagnosed with OCD that present significantly higher activity or hypermetabolism in their frontostriatal circuits. It means that the brain section is overactive. On the other hand, patients suffering from ADHD exhibit deficient activity or hypometabolism. To suggest that a part in their brain is less active in people with that condition. 

They Have Different Risk Tolerance Levels

The levels of risk tolerance differ in both conditions. For instance, people with a specific subtype of OCD condition might avoid any uncertainty and risks. Research claim that individuals with checking behaviors and more doubts might avoid risks or are indecisive as they feel over-concerned that some situations could be harmful.

Contrary, people who have ADHD are more likely to go through risky ways.

They Both Exhibit Different Traits

The person diagnosed with hyperactive ADHD has traits such as fidgety, impulsive, careless, and restless. This is contrary to persons with OCD who are attentive, focused, and cautious. At the same time, victims with the inattentive type of ADHD are disorganized, distracted, forgetful, and daydreamy.

Again, they are not the stereotypical OCD characters. Though, people with about 70% of the combined type of ADHD have all symptoms of both.


Available Treatments for OCD


Both Are Different in Diagnosis

With a diagnosis, you realize that ADHD is found in all domains, unlike OCD, specific to compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. Experts claim that checking on victims’ rituals is the best way to tell which type of disorder you might be suffering from if you try to examine for the proper diagnosis. 

Both Have Different Basic Nature of the Conditions

OCD is an internal disorder. This means that patients with OCD will respond inwardly to anxiety, while people living with ADHD are an external disorder that affects how they relate outwardly with the environment. The victims exhibit risky behaviors, inattention, and lack impulse control.

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To sum up, keep in mind that OCD medications don’t make symptoms of ADHD worse; however, ADHD stimulants worsen the condition of OCD. Therefore, you should be careful when you are dealing with any stimulant since they behave differently. 

If you have someone who might be showing such symptoms, as mentioned in the article, it’s the right time to make a trip to your experts to determine what could be happening in their lives.

Contact Us at Mango Clinic for ADHD and OCD treatment or click the banner below to book your appointment.


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