What is the Connection Between ADHD and OCD?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2016
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There are many secondary connections between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The most obvious is that they are both conditions which affect behavior and are rooted in the brain. Both may require medication combined with therapy in order for treatment to be successful, and they both are thought to affect the same general region of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is generally affected in both conditions, although in ADHD there is a decrease in chemical production and brain activity and in OCD there is an overabundance of brain activity and chemical production. This is true because both ADHD and OCD are both thought to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

ADHD and OCD both cause unusual activity in the brain, but they are thought to essentially be the opposite of one another in terms of how they work. ADHD is hallmarked by an lowered activity in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, and results in patients being easily distracted, have difficulties learning, and displaying overly hyperactive behavior. They may have difficulties in work and school settings due to their inability to concentrate on simple tasks, and many times it is mistakenly believed that they are unintelligent or uninterested in learning.


OCD patients also have unusual activity in the same brain region, but there is too much activity going on. This can often lead to anxiety, racing thoughts, and obsessive behavior and rituals. A combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is often implemented to treat this disorder.

Both ADHD and OCD can result in impulsive or compulsive behavior. There is a near inability to control actions, feelings, and thoughts. Treatments may be very similar in that medications are used to regulate the brain chemicals to help the patient find equilibrium.

In general, ADHD and OCD are considered to be unrelated disorders. Someone with one condition is no more likely to develop the other. There are some similarities in the development and diagnosis of both conditions, however. Both generally begin to present symptoms early in the children and may progressively get worse as time goes on if no treatment is given. Also, both conditions were poorly misunderstood for a long time and were often confused for more serious mental and personality disorders. Patients suffering from either ADHD or OCD may have been thought of as unintelligent or incapable of learning due to their inability to concentrate.

Treatments for both ADHD and OCD have come a long way, and newer forms of behavioral therapy have proven effective for both conditions. New methods are developed all the time, as well as more effective medications with fewer side effects. Those who exhibit symptoms of either condition should seek medical advice as soon as possible.


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Post 1

My 63 year old son first had symptoms when he was a child. He would wash his hands many times a day; he would only eat if the food on his plate was divided, not meshed. He had great anxiety if things were not exactly right. I didn't know what to do to help him.

Just recently, I heard that he was taking medication for ADHD, and I couldn't believe it, because he definitely doesn't have ADHD. Just the opposite. Any help out there?

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