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ADHD Misdiagnosis: Ailments That Are Often Mistaken for ADHD

ADHD misdiagnosis
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



ADHD isn’t the only issue affecting concentration, performance, or behavior. Many problems can manifest symptoms similar to ADHD, so it’s important to conduct a thorough evaluation before making a diagnosis.

Accurate diagnosis of a condition leads to effective treatment. This is why it is so important for an assessment of ADHD to be comprehensive to prevent ADHD misdiagnosis.

The following read will give you a detailed understanding of what mimics ADHD in adults sometimes.

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Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

As a developmental disorder, it is thought that ADHD cannot occur in adults without first manifesting in childhood. However, ADHD symptoms in children and teenagers can persist into adulthood. In addition, inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can impact adults differently than children. For instance, when the demands of adult life increase, inattentiveness tends to persist, whereas hyperactivity tends to decrease.

Here is a list of symptoms associated with ADHD in adults:

  • Carelessness for details
  • Lack of organization skills
  • Difficulty in prioritizing
  • Inability to focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Having trouble remaining silent and talking out of turn
  • Restlessness
  • Unstable moods and impatience
  • Failure to manage stress

Conditions That Mimic ADHD in Adults

Adults’ symptoms of the following medical illnesses can resemble those of ADHD, making a proper diagnosis challenging. Alternate conditions must be considered to ensure a precise diagnosis and course of treatment.

1. Anxiety

Anxiety can cause agitation, difficulty focusing, impulsive activities, and hyperactive behaviors. An adult may find it incredibly challenging to sit still and restrain fidgeting due to this anxiousness. Sleep quality may also suffer. It can be difficult to stay concentrated and finish activities. All of these signs are similar to ADHD, but an anxiety disorder can also cause them. Therefore, it is important to rule out anxiety when considering ADHD diagnosis.

By using our SmartCare symptom checker, you can evaluate your symptoms and lead toward a diagnosis.

2. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, which is marked by abrupt transitions from euphoric mania to depression, is most commonly linked to mood swings. However, persons with ADHD also have mood swings because they are intensely passionate and have powerful emotional responses that can drastically alter their mood. On the other hand, people with bipolar disorder frequently experience mood swings without a “trigger” and progress from sadness to mania or vice versa within a few days or even hours.

Conditions that mimic ADHD in adults
3. Depression

Depression is also among the disorders similar to ADHD in certain symptoms. It can cause problems with concentration, forgetfulness, poor motivation, issues with decision-making, difficulty starting and finishing work, sluggishness, disorganization, and sleep problems. ADHD-like behaviors might sometimes manifest in depressive symptoms.

4. Cognitive or Learning Disabilities

Adults with learning difficulties may also struggle with social relationships. Someone with a learning disability may experience attention problems and trouble organizing, remembering, and learning information, similar to someone with ADHD. Academic performance can also be affected by learning difficulties in reading. These similar-looking symptoms can lead to the misdiagnosis of ADHD.

5. Substance Abuse Disorder

The most prevalent comorbid disorder with ADHD is substance misuse, especially alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and cocaine. ADHD-afflicted adults frequently start taking drugs. Impulsivity and behavioral problems, which are more prevalent in those with ADHD, might encourage people to abuse drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, individuals with drug or alcohol addiction may have signs of ADHD, such as forgetfulness, carelessness, and fidgeting, which could lead to an erroneous diagnosis.

Is it depression or ADHD? MEDvidi’s doctors can answer your questions.

6. Sleep Problems

People with sleep issues, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), may exhibit symptoms similar to those of ADHD, for example, trouble focusing, restlessness, daytime sleepiness, and decreased performance at work.

7. Other Medical Conditions

A person may experience difficulties paying attention, appear “daydreamy,” or develop irritability, impulsivity, or hyperactivity as a result of several medical issues, such as seizures, thyroid disease, allergies, iron deficiency anemia, chronic ear infections, and hearing or visual loss. Furthermore, behavior resembling ADD has been linked to taking some medications.

In Conclusion

There are several other ailments and elements that might result in signs and actions that could lead to ADHD misdiagnosis. An effective solution to a problem depends on an accurate diagnosis. This is why it is crucial an ADHD assessment be correct. For an evaluation of your symptoms, a diagnosis, and a customized treatment plan for ADHD, get in touch with MEDvidi right away.

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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.