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ADHD: Other Conditions With Similar Symptoms - Topic Overview

Finding out exactly what is causing behavioral problems can be difficult, since symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also be caused by other problems. The main symptoms of ADHD—inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness—may also result from:

  • Giftedness. Some gifted children will show signs of inattention in class. Often they are not challenged and are bored. So they lose interest in normal class activities. (It is also possible for a child to be both gifted and have ADHD.)
  • Undernutrition. Without proper nutrients, especially in the first year of life, a child is at risk of not developing normally. This includes compromised brain development and function.
  • Abuse or neglect. Emotional problems that often result from abusive conditions can cause a child to have behavior difficulties.
  • Stressful home environment. Temporary or permanent family or household situations, such as divorce or a death of a loved one, may cause a child to act differently than normal. Children can become confused and frightened when there are major changes in their lives.
  • Parenting skills. Sometimes parents do not know how to effectively handle challenging—but normal—behavior in a child. If parents are inconsistent or unsure of themselves, their child may develop behavior problems.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse (most common in teens and adults). It is important to screen for alcohol or drug problems, especially in adults, when evaluating behavior problems.
  • Other medical conditions. Some other medical conditions have symptoms similar to ADHD. These conditions can be the primary cause of symptoms, but can also occur along with ADHD (coexist). Children with ADHD often have at least one other condition along with ADHD, such as:

In order to best treat symptoms of ADHD, a doctor must carefully investigate these other possibilities as a contributor to or cause of behavior problems.

Recommended Related to ADD-ADHD - Pediatric

Pesticides and ADHD: Is There a Link?

  Q. I heard that pesticide exposure may cause ADHD. Should I be worried? A. At least one in 10 American kids has attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity, or ADHD. And a recent study published in Pediatrics did find an association between pesticide exposure and ADHD, so there may be a link. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied 1,139 children ages 8 to 15, about 10% of whom had ADHD. All of the children submitted a urine specimen for testing. The urine of children...

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When symptoms are primarily a result of ADHD, they develop early in life (before the age of 7) and get worse when school demands are placed on the child. Symptoms of ADHD can be expected to continue into adulthood.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 02, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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