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Old 04-26-12, 02:09 PM
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Question about the relationship between ADHD and GAD & OCD

I have been diagnosed with ADHD (just a few days ago) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder & OCD (10 years ago). I'm taking Adderall for the ADHD and Zoloft for GAD and OCD.

Since I am new to ADHD and ADHD meds, I am wondering how much GAD and OCD symptoms intermingle with and differentiate from ADHD symptoms.

It seems there's a lot of cross-over with the symptoms of GAD & OCD and ADHD. For example, high levels of anxiety (and possibly OCD, I guess) is a symptom of ADHD and is a key symptom of both GAD and OCD. Both can cause huge distraction and loss of focus at home, school and work. So, from a medical/psychological standpoint, how is ADHD clearly distinguished from GAD and OCD? It seems there is a lot of room for misdiagnosis for ADHD and vise-versa.

For those with all three conditions, how do you really know you have ADHD when it's symptoms can mimic both GAD and OCD? I'm not questioning your diagnosis of ADHD at all, but am trying to figure out the real differences in these disorders.

What are your thoughts about this? I hope this all makes sense.

By the way, I'm also going to pose this same question to the bipolar disorder forum since I also deal with Bipolar 2.

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Old 05-06-12, 11:03 PM
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Re: Question about the relationship between ADHD and GAD & OCD

Well, take me for example. I only qualify for ADHD. I have some mild anxiety symptoms and even things that seem a little OCPDish but I wouldn't qualify for GAD or OCPD.

My anxiety symtoms consist of me having somewhat higher stress than average in response to typically stressful events. If the average person would respond to X event with a stress level of 3/10, I would respond with a stress level of 4 or 5. But not a 9 or a 10! No GAD. I assume if you have GAD, things can REALLY stress you out sometimes.

I don't have obsessions or compulsions so I don't have OCD. I can ruminate on occassion, but it's different than obsessions. I'm in control of what I think about, it doesn't alarm me that I'm thinking about those things, it's a method of problem-solving for me, and it doesn't compel me to do any specific action to stop the thought. I don't check things, wash things, tap things, count things, etc. There is a clear distinction between my thoughts and my actions. Do you have thoughts that alarm you, and/or do you have ritualized (often repetitive) behaviors of any kind? Either one would give you an OCD Dx.

My OCPDish traits are that I like to do a lot of things very well (better than average), but not to the point of perfection. And only certain things. Other things I don't care whether I do a great job or just get the bare minimum done. I also like to start to organize things... think about how best to organize them.Which is kind of funny in a sad way, because my ADHD also prevents me from completion of many of my organization tasks. But you can see this is very different from OCD...and it doesn't qualify as OCPD either.

I'm ADHD. Oh yeah am I ever. I can't control my attention or energy level very well at all. I have lots of both, and I make good decisions, but the space between "deciding" and "doing" is like a giant chasm for me. Many times I try to jump that chasm, I miss and fall (end up doing something I didn't intend to do which was immediately rewarding). Sometimes I do succeed in jumping that chasm. This affects both things I want to do but can't start (e.g., financial paperwork), and things I don't want to do but can't prevent (e.g., I know there's no point in ever even attempting any kind of strict diet like I see in magazines - not that I believe in diets, but I couldn't do them anyway). This is extremely frustrating and the bane of my life!!

Another clear sign... I can't estimate how much time is passing. I know time can seem to "slow down" or "speed up" for everyone sometimes, but for me, the amount of subjective time that objective time takes is extremely inconsistent. This is a very ADHD trait... time seems to warp and bend for me so much that I am seriously reliant on the clock to approximate even short intervals. Without a calendar, 2 years can seem like a month. Time is way too relative, for me.

Another very ADHD sign is that I have a very short short-term memory, specifically because my mind is going at a billion miles an hour at all times. In the span of a minute, I can't even begin to estimate how many thoughts I may have had. Whatever that point I heard a minute ago that I wanted to remember very well could already be forgotten. Often my writing cannot even catch up with the speed of the information I'm trying to write down. If it was interesting at all (meaningless stuff like a meeting time at 4:35pm doesn't count, but a slightly interesting new fact does), I haven't truly forgotten it, it's in there somewhere, but I've forgotten how to retrieve it. I cannot pull it up when I want it. Instead it will randomly appear again at another point in the constant thought barrage. Hopefully it will still be relevant at that point and I'll be able to hold on to it that time. The thoughts are all connected in some reasonable way, by the way, it's not schizophrenic, it's just like a firehose type of flow when you're trying to delicately half-fill a teacup. I don't think any other Dx has a similar symptom.

Hope that helps.
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