Conditions That Can Look Like ADHD in Children

Anxiety can manifest as restlessness, an inability to concentrate, impulsive reactions, and hyperactive behaviors. This anxiety can make it extremely difficult to sit still and control fidgeting. Adverse mental health also affects sleep, in turn resulting in the sleep issues mentioned above. These are all symptoms that can resemble ADHD but may be unrelated.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) refers to a range of problems caused by a mother exposing an unborn baby to alcohol during pregnancy, which harm the development of the foetal nervous system, including the brain. This results in the child having learning and behavioural problems, which may include:

Anxiety disorders. About one-fifth of kids with ADHD also have some type of anxiety disorder, including separation anxiety, social anxiety, or general anxiety. And children with ADHD are more likely than others to get anxiety. The type of medication they take for ADHD makes a big difference if they also have anxiety. Stimulants can make anxiety worse, but antidepressants can help with it.

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The conditions that are also co-morbid are covered here.

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Biochemical Imbalances

Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University.

Proper copper/zinc balance can alleviate symptoms of inattention and lack of focus.

The disruptive behaviors and poor impulse control associated with oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder also can look like ADHD.

Conditions That Can Look Like ADHD in Children

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Some examples of this include having high copper levels which lead to hyper-excitablity of the nervous system and can affect neural activity and so play a key role in symptoms of focus and attention.

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Conditions that mimic ADHD symptoms may include.

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Yeast toxicity is another issue that can also lead to poor focus, inattention, impulsivity and anxiety.

Anxiety, depression, and disruptive behavior disorders (as well as the conditions listed here) commonly occur alongside ADHD. Each can be a separate disorder with distinct etiology and treatment needs, or each may be a secondary condition that develops as a result of the problems associated with ADHD.

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Vision-related problems are often hard to pick up in children, especially younger children, as the child may not recognise or wish to admit the problem. They may assume that everybody has the same view of the world as they do, so not think to mention it.

It appears in people of all ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

Hearing problems are another common problem in children, which can cause symptoms of attention problems. If a child cannot hear their parent, teacher or other children they are going to appear inattentive and unfocussed or carry out tasks incorrectly. As with vision problems, hearing difficulties can often go undiagnosed as the child, or indeed adult, may not realise they are not hearing at the same level as other people. Hearing problems can be the result of many different causes some of which are listed below:

Conditions that Mimic ADHD

In such cases, the child does not have ADHD and the appropriate intervention is to provide more challenging tasks so as not to risk academic and social failure despite superior potential.

Insufficient sleep is also associated with increased frequency of risk-taking behaviors in teens, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs. The reasons for sleep disturbances can range from poor sleep habits to medical conditions that disrupt the sleep cycle, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and other sleep disorders.

By Keath Low
Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.

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