Can You Have ADHD and OCD Together? Know The Difference, Similarities And Signs

ADHD and OCD have many similarities as well as difference. Know if you can have both these disorders together.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: Feb 07, 2022Updated at: Feb 07, 2022
Can You Have ADHD and OCD Together? Know The Difference, Similarities And Signs

You may have heard about ADHD or OCD disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorders are two separate conditions that have very similar symptoms and effects on health. It is hard to tell the difference between a person having ADHD or OCD. This usually occurs to children more often and can have long-lasting effect on their health if not diagnosed at correct time. Even though it isn’t common, but it is actually possible to have ADHD and OCD conditions together. We consulted Dr. Tanu Chowdhury, Clinical Psychologist from Healthcare Clinic, Lucknow to know more about this condition.

Can ADHD and OCD affect you together?

Expert exclaims that both these conditions have similar symptoms and qualities which can be confused for one another. Attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome is when a person has hard time being attentive and takes impulsive decisions. Sometimes it becomes hard to tell that to complete projects and stay organised from people having attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome. 


Obsessive compulsive disorder causes behaviour problem and intrusive thoughts in people. OCD is having unwanted thoughts that may lead a person to anxiety, depression and other health problems. It is important to know that in this disorder the mental health issues become more evident and it becomes hard to control emotions for the person. 

In some cases, the ADHD and OCD can occur together when a person has both effects. Due to overlapping symptoms, it could create a misdiagnosis and result to wrong therapy. In young children, there have been cases in which they have had both these mental health disorder which becomes hard to treat. A simpler way of treating it is through therapies that tackle behavioural problems and attention deficit problem.

Difference in Symptoms

There are few differences in symptoms when it comes to both mental health disorders. By looking closely at different symptoms affecting people, it could be easier to approach the condition. 

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Difficulty in focussing on a task
  • Problem while keeping track of events
  • Problem solving projects and assignments
  • Forgetfulness and distraction
  • Impulsivity
  • Excessive talking
  • Increased need to be active without specific reason

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In this condition, the focus is more towards thoughts and obsessions. It is more of a repetitive behaviour issues which affects mental health of the person. The major difference in symptoms is the activity status. There are two major factors determining symptoms of this condition, they are obsession and compulsion. Let us look at symptoms of OCD-

  • Intense fear of acquiring infection or contamination
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
  • Unusual sexual thoughts
  • Strong need to maintain order, symmetry and predictability
  • Frequent checking


Key Difference between OCD and ADHD symptoms

You must have noticed that ADHD symptoms are more towards habits and having problems in making decisions for themselves and while working. In the case of OCD it is more towards having a need to keep surrounding clean and take actions in a particular manner as they like it. A person suffering from OCD can take extreme actions and could see dust and particles as signs of danger. Therefore the major difference that comes is in the habitat and behaviour of people. Usually OCD people are quieter and go on extreme situations in case of threat to health. But in other ADHD they are having troubles taking decisions and have distraction issues.

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Similarities between ADHD and OCD

There are several similarities that could possibly cause problems while diagnosing this condition. Here are some conditions that you should know-

1. Both conditions involve same areas of brain

ADHD and OCD have effect on same part of the brain, this means that it should have a neural pathway which could be involve frontostrial area. In the given condition, it is hard to understand that both conditions because they perform similar behaviour symptoms such as-

  • Attention shifting 
  • Flexibility
  • Goal directed behaviours
  • Hard to switch from one task to another

2. OCD and ADHD interfere with academics

In both these conditions, you will have problems while focussing on the academics and projects. It may be difficult for you to complete tasks in the given manner. Completing complex tasks and keeping time value could be a problem in both disorders. ADHD and OCD could be affecting their decision making abilities as well.

3. Both impact your relationships

It is obvious that ADHD and OCD cause behavioural problems and a person going through this may have problems maintaining their relationships with people. Both the disorder have problem coping up with regular tasks, routine and socialising. Hence their relation with their family, friends and others could be impacted big time.


4. Anger, Anxiety and Depression are part of ADHD and OCD

Having stress, anxiety, depressions are common part of having OCD or ADHD. This is more common towards OCD patients because they are more rigid regarding their behaviour but it happens in ADHD patients as well. Both conditions surge anger, and can cause irritability in people going through it. 

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5. Both are associated with sleep problems

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive disorders are also related to sleep disorders. According to a study published by National Institute of Health, around 70% of cases with OCD have insomnia or other types of sleep disorder. People with ADHD also get some sleep disorders such as-

  • Insomnia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Disrupted circadian rhythms
  • Restless leg syndrome

6. ADHD and OCD also causes Gastrointestinal Issues

It may look very weird to you but both these mental health disorders are also related to gastrointestinal problems. Most of the people having OCD have irritable bowel syndrome. The cause of it is still unknown but it happens widely. People with ADHD however have more of these issues such as suffering from constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. 

7. ADHD and OCD get worse with Trauma

If the cause of any of these mental health disorders is because of facing trauma, then the symptoms can go on to be worse. This is because emergence of conditions such as ADHD and OCD has a history linked to some emotional trauma during their childhood because of which these disorders happen. ADHD is already more common in children and symptoms become worse as growing up with it.

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