ADHD is diagnosed by health professionals who form their opinion by observing a child’s behavior. There are no brain scans, blood tests, or anything else definite that is used during diagnosis. The problem with this is there are many other problems that have the same symptoms of ADHD.
Many parents, because of not knowing, settle for ADHD as a diagnosis before looking at everything. For example, any problem dealing with the fuels of the body: water, food, blood and air can cause behavior problems. Water, food, blood and air to the body are just like gas and oil to a car. If you put bad gas or have old or the wrong oil in your car, it will act up just like a child acts up when eating foods they are allergic to, drinking or breathing contaminated water or air or having blood disorders.
There are also many medical, biological, emotional and mental conditions that mimic ADHD also. For those who are searching for reasons behind their child’s behavior, here are some possibilities. Only settle for the diagnosis of ADHD after checking out all of these problems and many more.
50 Conditions that Mimic ADHD
See original publication on ablechild.
Conditions most over looked
- Hypoglycemia (Low Blood sugar)
Low blood sugar can stem from thyroid disorders, liver or pancreatic problems, or adrenal gland abnormalities, or even an insufficient diet. Hypoglycemia can display the same ADHD like sypmtoms.
15 to 20 percent of the world has some type of allergy. A person can be allergic to nearly anything so check for all forms. Food is one of the primary causes of allergic reactions. Just like the Car and human analogy stated above. If a child eats food they are allergic to, the body will not run properly and that may affect behavior. Everyone has different sensitivities to allergens so just because you aren’t affected does not mean your child won’t be also. (Some examples, Allergic reactions to food dye, milk, chocolate, and grains, ect)
- Learning disabilities
If the primary place of behavior problems is at school, learning disabilities may be the cause of ill behavior. One of the main things that affect a child’s self-esteem is how well they do in school. If a child has an undiagnosed learning disorder that makes school much harder and sometimes impossible. Children with undiagnosed learning disabilities are labeled as lazy, stupid, and many other downgrading opinions that affect self-esteem. And many times when a child’s self-esteem is at jeopardy they try to make up for it in other sometimes-nonproductive ways such as acting out, bullying, or becoming the class clown.
- Hyper or hypothyroidism
An imbalance in metabolism that occurs from an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones. This imbalance may cause a variety of behaviors and may affect all body functions.
- Hearing and vision problems
If a child can’t see or hear properly, school and daily things in life are nearly impossible and it may cause ADHD like symptoms especially in educational settings.
- Mild to high lead levels
Even in the absence of clinical lead poisoning: research shows that children with even mildly elevated lead levels suffer from reduced IQs, attention deficits, and poor school performance. Lead is the leading culprit in toxin-caused hyperactivity.
Other good possibilities to check for
- Spinal Problems
Some spinal problems can cause ADHD like symptoms because if the spine is not connected to the brain properly nerves from the spinal cord can give the brain all of signals at once making a child rambunctious and always on the go.
- Toxin exposures
Children are more vulnerable to toxins than adults. Such as pesticide-poisoning (Eating vegetables and fruit not washed thoroughly, they can be exposed to them by playing outside on the ground), also by gasoline fumes, and herbicides. Inside there are also many toxins. Disinfectants, furniture polishes and air fresheners are toxins that can affect some children’s behaviors. Beds and carpets are one of the most dangerous places in the house because they are full of different types of dust, and other toxins. Toxins can cause hyperactivity, attention deficits, irritability, and learning problems.
- Carbon Monoxide poisoning
Thousands of children each year are exposed to toxic levels of this gas each year. Sources include gas heaters, and other gas appliances such as fireplaces, dryers, and water heaters.
- Seizure disorders
The most overlooked is the absence Seizures. During an absence seizure, the brain’s normal activity shuts down. The child stares blankly, sometimes rotates his eyes upward, and occasionally blinks or jerks repetitively, he drops objects from his hand, and there may be some mild involuntary movements known as automatisms. The attack lasts for a few seconds and then it is over as rapidly as it begins. If these attacks occur dozens of times each day, they can interfere with a child’s school performance and be confused by parents and teachers with daydreaming.
- Metabolic disorders
They reduce the brain’s supply of glucose, the bodies fuel and can cause ADHD like symptoms.
- Genetic defects
Some mild forms of genetic disorders can go unnoticed in children and display some of the same symptoms of ADHD. Mild forms of Turner’s syndrome, sickle-cell anemia, and Fragile X syndrome are some examples. Almost any genetic disorder can cause hyperactivity or other behavior problems, even if the disorder isn’t normally linked to such problems. Many genetic diseases disrupt brain functions directly, through a variety of paths. A simple blood test can rule out genetic disorders.
- Sleeping disorders
Or other problems causing fatigue and crankiness during the day.
- Post-traumatic subclinical seizure disorder
It causes episodic temper explosions. These fits of temper come out of the blue for no reason. Some of these seizures can be too subtle to detect without a twenty-four-hour electroencephalogram (EEG).
- High mercury levels
One of the most interesting things regarding high mercury levels is that it can relate to dental fillings. Children who have mercury amalgam fillings in their mouth and grind their teeth are at risk of high mercury levels. American dental associations are defensive on the subject of mercury fillings but many European countries have discontinued the use of them because of side effects. There are also other causes of high mercury levels.
- High manganese levels
- Iron deficiency
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is normally obtained through the food in the diet and by the recycling of iron from old red blood cells. The causes of iron deficiency are too little iron in the diet, poor absorption of iron by the body, and loss of blood. It is also caused by lead poisoning in children.
- B vitamin deficiencies
Many experts believe that one of the main causes for inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, temper tantrums, sleep disorders, forgetfulness, and aggression are caused by faulty neurotransmissions a problem with the neurotransmitters in the brain. Vitamin B-6 is a necessary vitamin used in the making of neurotransmitters that affect behavior. A lack of this vitamin or really any other vitamin can cause a child to act inappropriately.
- Excessive amounts of Vitamins
Excessive amounts of vitamins can be toxic to the body and may cause the same ADHD like symptoms. It is possible to overdose when taking vitamins so make sure you contact a physician and check for vitamin deficiencies before taking extra vitamins.
- Tourette’s syndrome
Tourette’s syndrome is a rare but disruptive condition. It involves multiple tics (small, repetitive muscle movements), usually facial tics with grimacing and blinking. Tics may also occur in the shoulders and arms. This is usually accompanied by loud vocalizations, which may include grunts or noises, or uncontrollable (compulsive) use of obscenities or short phrases. The tics are worse during emotional stress and are absent during sleep. The cause is unknown. It occurs most often in boys, and may begin around age 7 or 8 or not until the child is in his or her late teens or early twenties. It may, at times, run in families. This disorder can be mistaken for not being able to sit still or impulsive behavior.
- Sensory Integration Dysfunction
Sensory Integration Dysfunction is the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, development, and behavior. These children are over-sensitive or under-sensitive dealing in touch, taste, smell, sound, or sight. For example, some of these children crave fast and spinning movement, such as swinging, rocking, twirling, and riding the merry-go-round- without getting dizzy. These children may move constantly, fidget, enjoy getting into upside down positions and be a daredevil. These children may become overexcited when there is too much to look at words, toys, or other children. They may cover their eyes, have poor eye contact, be inattentive when drawing or doing desk work, or overreact to bright light. These children often act out in an attempt to cope with their inability to process sensory information such as acting out in crowded or loud places.
Definitely check if there is a family history of the condition
- Early-onset diabetes
Symptoms include aggression, depression, and anxiety. If you have a family history of diabetes checking for this is a must.
- Heart disease
It affects blood and oxygen flow to the brain affecting brain function that in-turn affects behavior.
- Cardiac conditions
It can reduce the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Defective blood vessels between organs to the brain.
- Early-Onset Bi-Polar disorder
Also know as child-like Bi-polar. The experts state that 85% of children with child-like Bi-polar also meet the criteria for ADHD. The symptoms are extremely close. Most people when they think of Bi-polar disorder, think of Adult like Bipolar which mood swings happen over a somewhat long period of time. In child-like Bipolar, the mood swings can happen many times within a twenty-four hour day, known as rapid cycling. At one moment they’re calm and the next minute they could be in a full fledge temper tantrum. Some of the symptoms are Distractibility, Hyperactivity, impulsivity, separation anxiety, restlessness, depressed mood, low self-esteem, and many more. Early-Onset Bi-polar should be ruled out before ADHD is considered mainly because they are treated with different medications if you choose medications that is. ADHD is treated with stimulant medications which will make a Bipolar child worse possibly psychotic.
General problems you can think about yourself and check if you see fit
(Central Auditory processing Disorder) will sometimes occur in children who have had a history of ear infections and/or PE tubes. Symptoms include distractibility, inability to follow a set of verbal instructions, “space out”, etc.
Such as Pinworms lay their eggs in the anal area, causing tickling and itching, which are most bothersome at night. The lack of sleep from this type of infestation can cause crankiness or bad behavior during the day. When asleep, nightmares may be present. This problem is mostly found in very young children preschool to kindergarten because of primitive toileting skills, they tend to put their fingers in their mouths, and they participate in a lot of hands-on activities with other kids and with pets. Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are other examples that can make a child display ADHD like symptoms. Worms cause hyperactive behavior, learning problems, depression, or attention deficits by making children miserable on the inside.
- Viral or bacterial infections
When a child is affected by an infection that might cause problem behavior.
- Malnutrition or improper diet
Many children in the United States do not eat a well balanced diet. A proper diet is necessary to growing children. An improper diet can affect a child’s behavior in an ill way.
- Head injuries
Such as the postconcussion syndrome. Some of the symptoms include Irritability, emotionality, memory problems, depression, and sleep disturbances. A concussion can disrupt brain functioning causing ADHD like symptoms.
- Dietary Factors
(For example to much caffeine and sugar) At doses as low as 250 milligrams a day, a level many American children exceed- caffeine can cause rambling speech, attention and concentration problems, agitation, heart palpitations, insomnia, and hyperactive behavior. In a way, it is true we are what we eat.
- Some disorders such as anemias reduce oxygen to the brain causing disturbance in the brains chemistry causing ADHD like symptoms.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or Fetal alcohol effects (FAE)
FAS is a name that doctors use to describe the damage done to children’s brains and bodies when their mother drink heavily during pregnancy. It is the leading form of mental retardation today. Prenatal alcohol impairment, however, also comes in a milder form called fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Children with FAE often don’t look disabled, and they tend to score in the low-normal or even normal range of intelligence. But these kids arent normal. Their mal-developed brains cause them to exhibit a wide range of behavior problems, including hyperactivity, attention problems, learning disorders, and ethical problems such as stealing, lying, and cheating.
- Intentionally or unintentionally sniffing materials such as modeling glue or other house hold products.
- Some drugs
(both prescription and illegal) can cause the brain to atrophy, leading to disturbed cognition and behavior. If your child routinely takes prescription or over-the-counter medications for asthma, hay fever, allergies, headaches, or any other condition, consider the possibility that the drugs are causing or contributing to behavior problems.
- A beta-hemolytic streptococcus:(better known as “strep.”)
Although these bacteria are most commonly thought of as the cause of strep throat. Left untreated, strep can cause rheumatic fever and a movement disorder called Sydenham’s chorea. Moreover, recurrent infections can lead, in susceptible children, to a group of symptoms collectively known as PANDAS (Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders) Some symptoms of PANDAS include obsessive-compulsive behavior, Tourette’s syndrome, hyperactivity, cognitive problems, and fidgeting.
- Lack of exercise
“Hyper Couch Potatoes” are children who aren’t moving enough. Some children because of lack of exercise may seem as though they are always in motion, but often that motion is in fits and spurts: leaping up from a chair, spinning around in the lunch line, bouncing in a chair while watching TV. Quite a few hyperactive children actually do not get enough sustained, strenuous exercise to stay healthy mentally and physically. Exercise can make people happier, less anxious, less hyperactive, and less depressed. One reason is that exercise increases serotonin levels in the brain exactly what Prozac, Elavil, and similar drugs do.
- Gifted Children
Gifted children often display ADHD like symptoms because most of the time they are bored with what other kids their age are doing. Behaviors associated with Giftedness are poor attention, boredom, daydreaming, low tolerance for persistence on tasks that seem irrelevant, their judgment often lags behind their development of intellect, their intensity may lead to power struggles with authorities, and they may have a high activity level. They may need less sleep compared to other children, and they may question rules, customs, and traditions. If your child scores above average on IQ tests, aces exams, has no trouble with homework, has no apparent learning disabilities, and primarily exhibits his or her problems mostly at school, maybe seeking a more challenging class or school would help.
- Emotional problems
Kids who are experiencing emotional problems most often display ADHD like symptoms. For example, kids who are constantly subjected to bullying at school can display ADHD like symptoms. These are normal kids that act out because they are scared. They experience sleeping problems, sadness, and they develop physical symptoms, especially if they think those symptoms will keep them home from school. Often they can’t concentrate in class, partly because they are worried and partly because they are suffering from sleep deprivation. Really any emotional problem at school or home in which a child is having trouble coping with can result in ADHD like symptoms.
- Some kids are spoiled and undisciplined
A number of children labeled hyperactive are merely under-disciplined children. They tend to run their household and get away with anything. Dr Syndey Walker stated this problem best of why parents under-discipline their children. He stated that he blamed not the parents but on the psychological experts who have counseled parents for several decades that children are fragile, easily traumatized little flowers who could be ruined for life by a cross look or a scolding which is very untrue. Children need firm discipline and strict rules not abuse but setting rules and standards and demanding those standards be met, and giving consequences when your rules are broken. Labeling undisciplined kids as ADHD who are not gives them an excuse for their misbehavior, which will often make it worse.
- Spirited children
When dealing with spirited children the problem usually does not lie with the child but with society’s perception of what normal childhood behavior is. Many normal children, according to some people, display ADHD like symptoms not because they are hyperactive or lack sufficient attention spans but because the person forming the opinion has unrealistic standards of how a child should behave.
- Lack of understanding and communication skills
One of the main reasons why a child acts out and throws temper tantrums when they have a problem is because of their lack of understanding of a problem and lack of expressing how they feel. Children do not have the vocabulary or know how to express their emotions like adults do, that’s why many act out when they are in a difficult situation. They are not able tell you something is wrong so they show you instead. This is one reason why any emotional or medical problem can cause acting out behavior in children.
Rare conditions but still good to check for and know about
- Early stage brain tumors
Found rarely in children but should still be considered. Statistically, this diagnosis may not be important but to individual families, they assuredly are.
- Brain cysts
Another rare cause of hyperactivity but should still be considered when searching for the reasons behind displayed ADHD like behavior.
- Temporal lobe seizures
The Temporal lobe is a part of the brain. Any brain malfunction can cause inappropriate behavior. That’s why conducting brain scans is a must when trying to figure out behavior problems.
- Klinefelter syndrom
A Genetic disorder in which a male has an extra X chromosome (XXY). Many individuals experience learning, behavior, and social problems. A degree of subnormal intelligence appears in some affected individuals. Many affected individuals are skinny and taller than most of their peers. A simple blood test can rule this disorder out.
- Genetic Disorder XYY
The extra Y chromosome has been associated with antisocial behavior.
A hereditary enzyme-deficiency disease. Enzymes are very important to our body’s chemical reactions. Really nothing occurs in our body without enzymes. A lack of enzymes causes body malfunctioning which can cause ill behavior.
- Candida Albicans infestation (Yeast Infection)
Candida infestations cause hyperactivity in children. Most children who do suffer from Candida infestations have some underlying problem frequently an immune disorder, or a disorder affecting carbohydrate metabolism and thus altering blood sugar levels. So immune disorders can cause other problems that also have the same symptoms of ADHD.
- Intestinal parasites
Parasites rob the body of needed nutrients which in-turn affects behavior.