Related Conditions, Part 2
Fifty percent of those diagnosed with ADHD will have so-called regulatory problems — difficulty regulating their emotions. Some might struggle with anxiety, possibly having panic attacks, while others may experience periods of depression. Other children may have trouble controlling their anger, while still others might have difficulty regulating their thoughts and behaviors, which can result in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some kids have trouble controlling their motor behavior (tics are a common symptom).
Such problems are caused by faulty wiring in an area of the brain other than that involved in ADHD. If your child has any of these problems, and if they have been chronic and pervasive, it's essential that they be diagnosed.
Course of action: Speak to your family doctor and request a referral to a mental health professional. (Since medication may be needed, it would be efficient to see a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who, unlike a psychologist, can prescribe medication.) If your student has a regulatory problem, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may help significantly.
Unlike regulatory problems, these behaviors aren't pervasive or chronic. They usually begin at a certain age — third grade or middle school — and seem to occur in certain settings, such as the classroom or when doing homework. They're often caused by frustrations and failures a child has experienced before his or her ADHD was diagnosed. Some kids deal with emotional pain by externalizing their problems. They blame others and take no responsibility for their behaviors. This syndrome is called oppositional defiant disorder or oppositional conduct disorder. Some children keep the pain inside and have a poor self-image. They might show clinical evidence of anxiety or depression.
Course of action: Seek a consultation with a mental health professional, preferably one who is familiar with ADHD. Treatment often requires that the child work with a therapist, along with his parents and siblings.
Social skills problems
If the child acted oddly or inappropriately with friends or schoolmates before he received treatment for ADHD, it's often hard for his peers to shake that image of him. The child might need help relearning social skills. For others, difficulty in relating to peers may have other causes, which should be both explored and diagnosed.
Course of action: Once again, seek a consultation with a mental health professional familiar with ADHD. Interventions might include counseling, group therapy, or participation in a group that focuses on teaching social skills. The school counselor can often play a significant role in these interventions.
Parents of a child with ADHD symptoms may be overwhelmed by managing their child's behavior or conflicted about a course of action. The stress often causes marital problems that may adversely affect a child.
Course of action: Seek a mental health professional who specializes in marital or family counseling.
This article comes from the October/November 2004 issue of ADDitude.