View Full Version : Secondary ADHD symptoms vs ASD symptoms?

10-20-12, 04:03 AM
Bear with me as I try to put thoughts to words here..

I've been wondering how to tell the difference between the secondary ADHD symptoms (such as difficulty with social cues because of attention span/memory) and ASD symptoms. To an outsider they can look quite similar, and it's just confusing me more.

I've had a few therapists basically agree that I'm "likely to be on the autism spectrum" but they weren't able to officially diagnose me because they weren't qualified to evaluate/diagnose. So I've identified as "Autistic" in reference to my disabilities in a general sense.

But the more I read about ADHD the more I'm wondering where the line ends for ADHD and where Autism starts. The DSM itself is confusing because technically isn't it saying that ADHD can't be diagnosed alongside a PDD diagnosis? Unless I misread the last criteria.

The confusing symptoms: Inability to effectively read social cues
Sensory processing issues
emotional regulation
Executive functioning

and there were more, but my mind has blanked out...

I think in myself, I'm able to differentiate between what is likely ADHD and what is likely due to autism instead, but it's a muddy line and I'm curious if anyone else has any experience in the two together.

For me, eye contact is threatening, intimidating, and unnatural- more of a PDD related issue.
My inability to effectively read and understand social cues is also more of a PDD issue, because I have trouble emulating them in response too. I'll mistake anger for sadness, sarcasm for anger, etc. I'll laugh in response to something I thought was funny, but wasn't meant to be funny.
I think the ADHD plays a major part in the executive functioning area of it all. My mind is disorganized, my train of thought is all over the place, and so I have a hard time getting started on tasks without a detailed step by step direction.
The sensory issues I'm still of the belief that they're a separate, yet often comorbid and closely related disorder - Sensory Processing (or integration) disorder/dysfunction.

Personally I think it'd be neat to go in depth and figure out which symptom is related to what... But that's me :) I get obsessively interested in topics like this and it'll be hard for me to "shush".

10-20-12, 06:26 AM
I'm not sure of the diagnostic process in your country but here in Oz we had to take our son to see a speech pathologist, clinical psychologist and a consultant pediatrician and then they all had to agree. Then it submitted somewhere - sorry can't remember that bit.

Maybe you need to try and contact you local autism association and find out who to go and see.

10-21-12, 09:03 AM
I think that would be a very interesting line of research. I'm not diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder but I do have many of the problems you have. I have extreme trouble with eye contact, I find it threatening and if for whatever reason I'm feeling guilty or vulnerable I absolutely will not look someone in the eye. I also misread social cues. There are more times then I can remember that I have thought my partner was mad at me and she was joking. It's frustrating.

I'm not the best case study because of a brain hemorrhage when I was born in my right hemisphere which could be affecting my ability to interpret social cues. Even so, this is a very interesting train of thought.

Don't worry I obsess and don's shush over things as well. It seems like you either have some knowledge of psychology/psychiatry. Is this from personal experience or did you study it at school? (Sorry, I'm a psychology major)

10-21-12, 06:27 PM
Bluewind, everything I know about psychology is just from personal knowledge really. I had a general psychology class in college, but I never learned anything new- I had known it all already just from having the interest in it.

I wouldn't be the best subject to test the theory on either, because I went through childhood abuse which muddles the lines a lot.

I'm also finally being able to put into words how I feel, how I've coped etc. My therapist and I are going to have an interesting time this wednesday. I impulsively answered the initial screening questions and realized some of them were answered incorrect, namely about my depression, so I'm going to have to really set that straight.

10-26-12, 07:14 AM
I have both autism and ADHD. It's easy for me to separate them, because I like to separate each symptom and put them in the 'ADHD' folder or the 'autism' folder.

How are you around people? Do you feel close to them or like there is an invisible wall between you and them? Because with me I feel no connection to people. I feel closer to animals.

I don't make eye contact because it's not something that naturally occurs to me. It's still intimidating and distracting but I really got to consciously think 'I should make some eye contact now.'

What are your interests like? Do you get into a new thing every day or after a couple of weeks or are there a few things that you are really obsessed about?

You go into my room and you'll get an idea what my interests are. They are all on display, and I'll be happy to describe them all. I'll start pulling books out of my bookshelf and excitedly explain to you my favourites. Then I'll show you my sci-fi collectibles and soon start talking about the one I'm writing. Mind you, during this time you haven't been able to get a word in edge wise.

So I come off as a little obsessed. I've even been told that by people that don't know I have autism.

When I meet people I'm fine with greetings but I don't know what to do next. I stand around awkwardly. I used to be worse. Now I can eventually talk to people because I read a lot and have many interests that I can bring up that people might be interested in. Or I'll look for the one guy at the party that's as obsessed with physics as I am.

Repetitive behaviour. This is a big autistic symptom. And it's one that isn't too common in ADHD. My theory is because we (with autism) get overloaded by a busy environment (which looks pretty average to non-autistic) we have developed this attention to detail and need for the familiar, so we repeat things over and over again. This can be the intense interest, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, and stimming which is like body rocking, hand flapping and lining up objects or stacking them. Oh, it's so calming.
Then there's the natural ability to fall into a routine which isn't very common in ADHD.

From this comes an aversion to change. It's panic really. We don't know what to except so it makes us distressed.

But, I really think the main difference between autism and ADHD is the type of social issues. Like I said it's like a lack of connectedness to other people. We think about our self more not in any selfish way but because that's the way our brain works.