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When many people think of comorbidities, they often solely think of the comorbidities of addiction. While it is very true that addictions such as substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are some of the more common comorbidities, there are also others, and they are more common than many people may know. For example, there are comorbidities of multiple mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. Eating disorders and disordered eating are also common comorbidities. Also, it is relatively common for people to have adult ADHD and comorbidities.

What Exactly Is Adult ADHD?

Though generally symptoms are less severe, adult ADHD is generally very similar to adolescent ADHD. Essentially, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), individuals struggling with ADHD must experience “an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity.” These issues must also impede everyday life in a significant and negative way.

More specific examples of symptoms associated with adult ADHD include:

  • Having trouble paying attention or concentrating for extended periods of time
  • Exhibiting too much energy
  • Not fully thinking through consequences before acting out. 

Moreover, adults with ADHD must meet a certain number of criteria to be diagnosed with the disorder. According to NIMH, to be diagnosed with adult ADHD, individuals must “experience at least five persistent symptoms of inattention and/or five persistent symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity.” Also, “These symptoms must be present in two or more settings (for example, home, work, or school; with friends or relatives; in other activities) and interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.” Now, when other symptoms appear, it may be a sign of a co-occurring disorder.

What Are Comorbidities of Mental Health?

While the rate of comorbidities is significantly less than single diagnoses, they are still relatively high. According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, “The lifetime prevalence of any disorder has been reported to be 46.4%, while the lifetime prevalence of 2 and 3 disorders was found to be 27.7% and 17.3%, respectively.”

These numbers may also be significantly higher than reported, as diagnosing co-occurring disorders can be difficult. This is because many symptoms of co-occurring disorders overlap with each other. Also, there are situations where certain symptoms and behaviors overshadow the existence of comorbidity. This can often occur with adult ADHD and comorbidities.

Adult ADHD and Comorbidities: Common Co-Occurring Disorders

There is a reason that many people who struggle with adult ADHD also take antidepressant medication. This is because many individuals diagnosed with adult ADHD are also diagnosed with some form of anxiety or depressive disorder.

Now, while there may certainly be other factors, one of the reasons that co-occurring disorders that involve anxiety and depression often manifest is due to the nature by which one is affected by ADHD behaviors. For example, heightened anxiety can come from stress brought about by having trouble focusing at work. Also, depression can set in when the consequences of having trouble at work start affecting other aspects of everyday life, such as home life communication and financial insecurities.

The other two common comorbidities associated with adult ADHD include addiction substance addictions and process addictions. For example, individuals may turn to substances as a way to cope with their ADHD symptoms. Also, individuals may acquire a process addiction like an eating disorder because they find that it allows them some control that they otherwise don’t feel when struggling with ADHD symptoms.

ADHD and Comorbidities: The Importance of Treating Mental Health Issues Together

One of the keys to dealing with ADHD and comorbidities is to treat them at the same time. If one disorder gets treated and the other is left alone, there is a good chance that the ignored disorder will not only take hold but will also bring the other disorder back to the surface.

Once they manifest, co-occurring disorders become symbiotically intertwined. This is positive in that treating one often helps with the other in some capacity. However, this can be detrimental as it can make some treatments ineffective. The key is to create a comprehensive recovery plan and work closely with professionals. This way, multiple modalities can be tried, and when something doesn’t work, an adjustment can be made in real-time.

The Importance of Comprehensive Mental Health and Addiction Care at the Phoenix Recovery Center

Even when someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, their backstories and situations always differ. This is why individuality is critical in recovery. Only by focusing on mental health issues in an individualized way can an effective comprehensive recovery plan be made.

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we know that what works for some doesn’t always work for others. That is why we never use pre-made or repurposed recovery plans. Each plan is individualized because we don’t see diagnoses here at The Phoenix Recovery Center; rather we see people. More importantly, we see people become well again.

For more information on treating ADHD and its comorbidities, call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT