Common health problems faced by adults with ADHD

It is common for people with ADHD to also have at least one mental health problem. Some of the most common examples include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Fortunately, there are evidence-based treatments available that can enable you to live a fulfilling life with both ADHD and other conditions.

Some people with ADHD have problems controlling attention, others have problems with hyperactivity and impulsivity, and some have all of the above. (For more information about ADHD, see here.) People with ADHD are also more likely to have difficulties with work, study, relationships, and both mental and physical health – but with appropriate treatments and supports, people with ADHD can have great outcomes.

If you have ADHD, it is important to not only treat that, but also to treat any other diagnoses that you have.

On average, out of every five adults with ADHD, four of them have at least one other diagnosis affecting their mental health.

Here are some of the most common health problems faced by people with ADHD:

Mood disorders

Depressive disorders

•   This includes major depression. If you experience major depression, it’s different to “feeling blue” – it’s a prolonged period of time (lasting at least two weeks) where, on most days, you feel low mood or a lack of interest in things that would normally interest you, with significant negative impacts on multiple areas of your life and functioning.

Bipolar disorders

•   If you have bipolar disorder, this means that you experience periods of time with depression, other periods of time with normal mood, and some periods of time with better-than-normal mood (which, when it is severe, can result in such an abnormally high mood that you may do things that you would later regret).

Anxiety disorders

There are many types of anxiety. One common type is generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). If you have GAD, that means you experience anxiety that is difficult for you to control and that interferes with your daily functioning on most days for a prolonged period of time (at least six months).

Substance use disorders

If you have substance use disorder, that means that you’re continuing to take a substance despite it having negative effects on your life and functioning (you might notice a lack of control over whether you take it, physical dependence on it, or social problems from using it, or your use of the substance might be putting you or others at risk).

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

If you have OCD, this means you have a type of anxiety disorder where you are troubled by recurrent, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses, as well as obsessions and repetitive rituals, which are hard for you to ignore even if you think that they are irrational.

Neurodevelopmental conditions

These include specific learning disorders, language disorders, autism spectrum disorders

Neurodevelopmental conditions are conditions that affect how people’s brains develop (“neuro” refers to the nervous system and “developmental” refers to the fact that development is affected).

Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders can affect how easily people fall asleep or stay asleep, or they can affect the quality of sleep.

Personality disorders

Someone’s personality is called “disordered” if they have persistent patterns of responding or relating to others and to the world around them in ways that cause significant harm to themselves or others.

Suicidal behaviour and ideation

If you are thinking about harming yourself, have attempted or planned to harm yourself, or are worried that you will, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, seek assistance from emergency services and inform your psychiatrist.

There are a range of effective and evidence-based treatments for the conditions listed above. Specific treatment plans can be discussed with your psychologist and psychiatrist. There are some treatments that are helpful for all or most of the conditions listed above, though, and it is worth knowing about these. Click here to read about treatments that are helpful for both ADHD and the most common mental health conditions among people with ADHD.