"Behaviors Are Messages; They Are Not Diagnoses"

Why your child's inattentive or hyperactive symptoms may actually be symptoms of anxiety. Or why her worry and trouble sleeping may point to ADHD. And how to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

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Easily Distracted and Intimidated

Joseph was 16 when he visited my office. His parents described him as quiet, shy, “afraid of his shadow.” He had no friends, and he avoided sports or other group activities.

Joseph was nervous around people he did not know or when he had to speak in front of the class. He was also afraid of elevators and other small, enclosed spaces.

His parents said that Joseph showed signs of anxiety since early childhood. His mother admitted that she had similar behaviors as a child — and that she still had them. I learned that Joseph did poorly in school.

He was distracted by objects and noises in the classroom. He daydreamed and lost track of what was going on. I also found that he had problems with organization. I diagnosed him with anxiety disorder and untreated ADHD.

Mrs. Garcia, a college graduate who held a prominent position in a consulting firm, took anxiety medication for three years. But it didn’t help: She still needed a quiet space in order to stay focused. It seemed to me that her anxiety and stress in college and at work stemmed from inattention.

I took her off anxiety medication and started her on ADHD meds. Within a week, she could focus on and complete her projects at the job. Her anxiety ceased.

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TAGS: ADHD and Anxiety, Stress, Comorbid Conditions with ADD, Depression

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