20 Health Conditions That Mimic ADHD

20 Health Conditions that Mimic ADHD

By Dr. Edward F. Group

(DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM)

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, is diagnosed through mere observation of symptoms and not by any sort of scientific testing. There are no brain scans, blood tests, or biological readings to determine the presence of ADHD, just a myriad of behavioral and psychological symptoms.[1] Although many of the symptoms arise from an underlying cause, most doctors who diagnose children and adults with ADHD tend to overlook the underlying health factors in lieu of prescribing an ADHD medication. Whether concentration issues are the result of an allergy, lack of physical or mental stimulation, or is the result of nutrient malabsorption, misdiagnosis is bound to contribute to the sharp increase in ADHD diagnoses.

Conditions That Mimic ADHD

There are many biological, physiological, emotional, and medical conditions that may cause symptoms similar to those ascribed to ADHD. Here are just a few of the issues that might be influencing ADHD-like behavior.

1. Hypoglycemia

Blood sugar issues are common, especially in children who regularly consume high-carbohydrate foods. Highly processed foods often encourage a blood sugar crash. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can cause irritability, lack of concentration and focus, and low energy levels — classic “ADHD” symptoms.[2] Although research hasn’t shown that sugar causes ADHD, it has been shown to boost observable symptoms.

2. Allergies

Allergic reactions to synthetic dyes, preservatives, and other food chemicals can lead to symptoms associated with ADHD.[3][4] One of the first steps to take if you’re experiencing concentration or focus problems is to avoid synthetic, processed, and non-organic food whenever possible.

3. Learning Disabilities

There are many reasons why a child (or even an adult) may have trouble learning. Perhaps they learn at a slower rate. On the other hand, maybe they can pick up new information faster than those around them, resulting in extra downtime for daydreaming and restlessness. Whatever the cause, undiagnosed issues can result in an ADHD diagnosis. Perhaps all that’s required to improve symptoms is a change of environment or teaching method.

4. Hyper- or Hypothyroidism

Both the underproduction and overproduction of thyroid hormones can cause energy imbalances, mood disorders, and concentration issues. Anyone who is currently experiencing such problems should have their thyroid evaluated before diving into traditional ADHD therapies.[5]

5. Hearing and Vision Issues

If a child has trouble seeing the board or hearing the teacher, this could affect how they perform in the classroom. This can affect adults as well, and many older adults are reluctant to tell their doctor about hearing or eyesight issues. Remedying poor eyesight or hearing may be helpful for avoiding an ADHD diagnosis.

6. Lead Poisoning

People with abnormal levels of lead in their body are more likely to suffer from lower IQ, attention deficits, and negative work and school performance. Studies indicate that lead may be one of the leading culprits for increasing hyperactivity in children.[6]

Genetic Conditions That Mimic ADHD

Certain genetic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, may also increase ADHD symptoms. People who have been diagnosed with ADHD should take inventory to determine if they’re instead suffering from any one of the following conditions.

7. Diabetes

People who have a family history of diabetes should make sure they are keeping their blood sugar in check. High blood sugar, whether genetic or not, could present symptoms related to ADHD, including anxiety, poor focus, and aggression.[7]

8. Heart Disease

Any sort of heart abnormality can affect blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow to the brain. Adults and children alike should look into their heart health if on the verge of being diagnosed with ADHD, especially if heart disease runs in the family.

9. Anemia

While anemia isn’t always inherited, the condition, marked by a lack of red blood cells, is often a result of genetics. Anemia can cause a decreased level of oxygen to the brain, possibly leading to brain dysfunction.

10. Bipolar Disorder

Many health experts believe that 85% of children with bipolar disorder meet the criteria set for ADHD.[8] For children suffering from bipolar, mood swings can occur throughout the day, and many doctors, parents, and teachers misjudge these occurrences as ADHD.

Other Factors That Mimic ADHD

The following rare and lesser-known conditions are also known to affect mood, behavior, and mental function…

11. Spinal Problems

The spine is connected directly to the brain, and a misalignment can affect nerves and influence symptoms linked to ADHD. Exploring this with a trained chiropractor may be helpful for individuals suffering from ADHD-related symptoms.[9]

[For more information on chiropractic, check out Liberate Your Body’s Innate Intelligence with the Vitalistic Chiropractic Philosophy]

12. Toxin Overload

Gasoline fumes, pesticides, and lead are just a few of the toxins that permeate every day life. At times, you can become bogged down with toxins that manifest certain symptoms and conditions, including those associated with ADHD.[10][11] When the liver isn’t functioning as it should, it may prompt a lack of focus, concentration issues, and irritability.

[Find our here how to detox your liver].

13. Metabolic Disorders

Certain metabolic disorders that interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize, or break down and absorb, certain nutrients may lead to the mental degeneration.[12] A brain that can’t properly utilize glucose, for example, may experience difficulty processing and retaining information, a marked sign of attention deficit disorder.

14. Sleeping Issues

Sleeping habits that are less than ideal can increase the chances of an individual being diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD. Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep can make you groggy and restless, both of which interfere with concentration.

15. Infections

A viral or bacterial infection could lead to temporary changes in behavior, and not for the better.[13] People with suppressed immune systems are the most susceptible. Even minor infections can affect behavior, mood, and mental clarity.

16. Diet

Caffeine and sugar are two of the worst offenders when it comes to maintaining mental health and clarity. Both behave like drugs and have addictive qualities. Sugar and caffeine stress the adrenals, lead to energy crashes, cause nervous issues and agitation, and even contribute to decreased memory and focus. Not receiving adequate vitamins and minerals can also interfere with brain metabolism, especially B vitamins. Every diet should include a balance of protein, fiber, and fat to prevent blood sugar spikes that produce energy lulls and concentration issues — two symptoms typified by ADHD.

17. Taking Prescription Medications

Some prescription drugs can lead to minor brain atrophy, a condition that can cause a disturbance in cognition. Prescription medications may also interfere with brain function to cause mental and physical fatigue.

18. Brain Disorders

Children or adults with brain disorders that interfere with their sensory faculties may display symptoms of ADHD. Minor seizure disorders, if undiagnosed, can be mistaken for attention deficit disorder. While rare, these issues should be considered before jumping into a conventional ADHD care regimen.

19. Intestinal Imbalance

An imbalance of good bacteria in the intestines can interfere with brain function. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter present in the intestines, is a great influencer of mood and behavior. Bad bacteria in the gut can negatively affect this neurotransmitter. Sugar, processed carbohydrates, and a lack of sunlight can interfere with the balance of good to bad bacteria in the body.

20. Lack of Exercise

Physical activity is good for body and mind and helps to release energy and tension. Exercise also increases oxygen intake and this stimulates brain activity. Research has proven that exercise, especially out in nature, can improve concentration and decrease common symptoms of ADHD.[14][15]

One Final Thought

Nobody knows your body or situation better than you. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from ADHD-like symptoms or even been diagnosed with ADHD, it may be worth digging deeper to determine if that’s really the issue. After all, the mind medicines typically prescribed are questionable, to say the very least.

How have you dealt with attention issues? Please leave a comment and share your insight!

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Rowland AS. The epidemiology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a public health view. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2002;8(3):162-70.
  2. Yujeong Kim and Hyeja Chang. Correlation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sugar consumption, quality of diet, and dietary behavior in school children. Nutrition Research and Practice. June 2011; 5(3): 236-245.
  3. Joel T. Nigg, Ph.D., Kara Lewis, Ph.D., Tracy Edinger, N.D., Michael Falk, Ph.D. Meta-Analysis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms, Restriction Diet, and Synthetic Food Color Additives. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Volume 51, Issue 1, Pages 86-97 .e8, January 2012.
  4. Kanarek RB. Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutrition Review. 2011 July;69(7):385-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00385.x.
  5. Weiss RE, Stein MA, Trommer B, Refetoff S. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and thyroid function. Journal of Pediatrics. 1993 October;123(4):539-45.
  6. Kim S, Arora M, Fernandez C, Landero J, Caruso J, Chen A. Lead, mercury, and cadmium exposure and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.Environmental Research. 2013 October;126: 105-10. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2013.08.008.
  7. Chen HJ, Lee YJ, Yeh GC. Association of attention-defict/hyperactivity disorder with diabetes: a population-based study. Pediatric Research. 2013 April;73(4 Pt 1):492-6. doi: 10.1038/pr.2013.5.
  8. Singh MK, DelBello MP, Kowatch RA, Strakowski SM. Co-occurrence of bipolar and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders in children. Bipolar Disorder. 2006 December;8(6):710-20.
  9. Jeffrey M. Muir. Chiropractic management of a patient with symptoms of attention-defcit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. September 2012; 11(3): 221-224.
  10. Yousef S, Adem A, Zoubeidi T, Kosanovic M, Mabrouk AA, Eapen V. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and environmental toxic metal exposure in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics. 2011 December;57(6):457-60. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmq121.
  11. Curtis LT, Patel K. Nutritional and environmental approaches to preventing and treating autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008 January-February;14(1):79-85. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0610.
  12. Zametkin AJ, Liebenauer LL, Fitzgerald GA, King AC, Minkunas DV, Herscovitch P, Yamada EM, Cohen RM. Brain metabolism in teenagers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1993 May;50(5):333-40.
  13. Barichello T, Generosos JS, Milioli G, Elias SG, Teixeira AL. Pathophysiology of bacterial infection of the central nervous system and its putative role in the pathogenesis of behavioral changes. The Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria. 2013 March;35(1):81-7.
  14. Frances E. Kuo, PhD and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD. A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health. 2004 September; 94(9): 1580-1586
  15. Claudia Verret, Marie-Claude Guay, Claude Berthiaume, Phillip Gardiner, Louise Béliveau. A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior and Cognitive Functions in Children with ADHD: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Attention Disorders: January 2012 vol. 16 no. 1 71-80.

Previous articles by Dr. Group:

About the author:

dr-edward-group-iiiDr. Edward F. Group (DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM) founded Global Healing Center in 1998 and is currently the Chief Executive Officer. Heading up the research and development team, Dr. Group assumes a hands-on approach in producing new and advanced degenerative disease products and information.

Dr. Group has studied natural healing methods for over 20 years and now teaches individuals and practitioners all around the world. He no longer sees patients but solely concentrates on spreading the word of health and wellness to the global community. Under his leadership, Global Healing Center, Inc. has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the internet.

 


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  • Laura Masciarelli

    In addition to these 20, retained neonatal reflexes can lead to ADHD symptoms. Babies have certain obligatory movements. These disappear so higher level movement, and subsequently, learning can occur. ADHD is often the result of a reflex that has not been fully integrated, specifically, the STNR (symmetric tonic neck reflex).

  • Andrew Costigan

    I have a mild form of autism caused by my lead poisoning when I was an infant; I had learning disabilities among other effects, but I did not quit on myself even when I thought others did. I already have come to terms with it. Now, I am a 2014 university graduate from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Thank you.

  • jill rosenlund

    I think you could add undiagnosed coeliac disease.

  • Meera

    Also to expand the Allergies Section, allergy to – Salicytic Acid – SA (Natural Aspirin) is a possibility. It found in most fruits vegetables, spices, food preservatives and colourings toiletries, cleaners etc. I have Asthma and have had bouts of Hyper and depression and since I have gone on as SA free diet I feel a lot better…

  • Ihaveadd

    I would like to chime in here as someone who has this disorder and has done extensive research on the subject as well as taken several medical classes. Most of these are complete bs. I think that the most valid one is probably allergies, which often go undiagnosed and untreated. A runny, itchy nose makes it very difficult to concentrate on anything! As for the rest, malnutrition is the major thing that is argued and this is very rare in the US since we have access to so many different kinds of food! Diseases that cause malnutrition are not as common as this article would have you believe. Also, things like hypothyroidism have many other symptoms, so they can usually be caught by a good doctor. No one in their right mind would have all of these tests (which can be very expesive btw) before treating add. I mean, come on, a heart test??? If you aren’t getting oxygen to your brain, hyperactivity is probably not something that will happen. There is some validity to the sugar thin as , but add and ADHD have many symptoms, as do the diseases listed. A psychiatrist, has the training to tell the two apart.

    • jazzfeed

      A psychiatrist has the “training” to prescribe psychiatric drugs. That is what you’ll get in most cases, regardless of diagnosis.

  • Nicole

    Celiac can also mimic ADHD. Just went through this with my 5 year old. One doc told me he needed to be medicated (yes, at 5) the school wanted to reclassify my general education child into a self contained special education class. I called his pediatrician and asked for bloodwork and sure enough there it was! We put him on a gluten free diet. He is like a different child; sleeping, listening, improved attention span, more focus. I am so glad I didn’t allow my son to be shoved into a category and medicated without finding out what really was going on in his body.