Analyzing a child's symptoms to make a correct diagnosis isn’t always easy.
About half of all children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) also have a learning disability, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anger-control difficulties, a motor tic disorder, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder. Symptoms may also look similar.
A child who seems to have ADHD — she’s hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive — may have an anxiety disorder instead. Children who display classic symptoms of anxiety disorder may have ADHD. Distinguishing between ADHD and an anxiety disorder requires a full evaluation by a professional who is willing to dig deep for clues.
Still, even professionals can misinterpret symptoms. If a child can’t sit still, doesn’t stay on task, calls out in class, or shouts out inappropriate comments, they think it must be ADHD. If a child has excessive fears or worries, it must be an anxiety disorder.
The problem is that we sometimes see the smoke and miss the fire. Or we see the smoke and conclude incorrectly what is causing the fire. Behaviors are messages, they are not diagnoses. It is the task of the professional to clarify reasons for behaviors.