Reviewed by Melinda (Santa) Gladden, LCSW
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common mental health condition characterized by unwanted, intrusive, and recurring thoughts that can lead to compulsive behaviors. Many misconceptions are surrounding OCD. It is often used to refer to people who like washing their hands or being neat. While the need to be clean or the need for order are forms of OCD, there is a difference between an occasional urge and a long-term behavior pattern. Most common conceptions of OCD fail to acknowledge the distressing thoughts that precede compulsions and the devastating impact it can have on people's lives.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a mental health condition characterized by patterns of not being able to pay attention and impulsive behaviors.
ADHD and OCD are separate conditions but have many common symptoms. For this reason, people with OCD can often be misdiagnosed with ADHD, which can be detrimental from a treatment standpoint. However, it is possible to have both ADHD and OCD at the same time.
It is important to recognize the differences between the two conditions. This can help you seek the right kind of help. ADHD and OCD can affect many parts of your life daily, so reaching out for help can be the first step toward a happier, fuller life.
Do I Have OCD?
OCD is characterized by three main elements: obsessions, emotions, and compulsions.
Obsessions are defined by intrusive thoughts, images, or urges, leading to feelings of distress or anxiety in an individual. Becasue of these emotions, certain compulsions can develop. These compulsions are behaviors, mental or physical, that someone with OCD feels compelled to perform because of their distress and anxiety.
A person's OCD can be in many forms, but the obsessions often fall under the following categories:
- Fear of germs or contamination
- The need to keep things in perfect order or symmetry
- The need to check things, such as locks on windows or whether the stove is off
- Intrusive thoughts and ruminating
- Fear of harm
To ignore or suppress these thoughts and their anxiety, the person may begin to develop compulsive behaviors. This may provide temporary respite from the distress that the person is feeling, but these behaviors are often excessive and often not realistically related to the distress.
These behaviors or compulsions can include, but are not limited to:
- Repetitive hand-washing
- Repeating words silently
- Mental rituals like a thought or a prayer
Sometimes people with OCD develop a belief that these compulsions are necessary to avoid harm. They feel it is something they must do, even if they recognize it is excessive. As different people develop OCD for different reasons, their behaviors to cope with their obsessive thoughts will vary from person to person.
There are certain distinguishing factors between those with OCD and people who may have the occasional urge to clean or keep things in order.
People with OCD generally:
- Experience a significant impact on their lives due to their obsessions and compulsions.
- May feel a sense of relief due to their behaviors to cope with the obsessive thoughts, but these behaviors do not usually give them pleasure or happiness.
- They cannot control their thoughts or behaviors. These behaviors are excessive and do not directly correlate with the thoughts they are trying to neutralize.
- Have obsessions or compulsions that are time-consuming and take at least an hour or more of their time every day.
- Recognize that their behavior is excessive.
OCD is often seen in children but can also show up later in someone's life. It can heavily interfere with daily activities and major aspects of life, like relationships, school, and work.
If you have OCD, you may feel anxious or embarrassed about it, which can inhibit you from reaching out for help. It is important to remember that there is nothing shameful about what you are feeling, and there are ways to seek help.
Test for OCD
If you think you may have OCD, there is help out there for you. Taking a test or quiz can be a great first step and help you decide if you would like to seek professional help. The test can also provide helpful information that may give you greater clarity about your symptoms.
If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of OCD, this test for OCD may help understand symptoms and give you greater clarity about the condition.
It is important to note that this test is not a replacement for an official diagnosis or consultation from a licensed medical professional.
Do I Have ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a condition where someone has significant trouble concentrating and/or has hyperactivity-impulsivity patterns. ADHD affects their daily functioning and development.
Sometimes a person with ADHD may only show inattentiveness or only hyperactivity-impulsivity, but these can occur together as well. ADHD is often called ADD, but ADHD is more accurate and up-to-date. Inattentiveness in a person means that they have trouble sustaining focus and are often disorganized. These issues are not due to a lack of intelligence or defiance.
Symptoms of inattention can include:
- Having a short attention span and being easily distractible, which leads to difficulty in holding conversations or performing tasks
- Making careless mistakes in school or at work
- Overlooking details
- Difficulty with organization, such as time management or keeping things in order
- Being forgetful for things such as chores, appointments, or deadlines
- Avoiding or disliking tasks that require long periods of mental effort like lengthy reading or writing a report
Hyperactivity can cause a person to fidget or talk excessively even if the situation is not appropriate. They can feel extremely restless and find it hard to not be doing something. This can go hand in hand with impulsivity, where a person makes hasty decisions or actions without thinking them through first or considering long-term consequences.
Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity can include:
- Constantly fidgeting
- Excessive talking or physical movement
- Restlessness and being unable to sit still
- Little or no sense of danger
ADHD In Children
Symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers can often be noticed before the age of six and are more defined than the symptoms in adults. ADHD commonly begins in childhood, developing into adulthood alongside other mental health conditions. It can affect people's school, home, and social life.
As with adults, children can make careless mistakes in schoolwork and find it hard to focus on tedious tasks. They may also appear to find it difficult to listen to and carry out instructions. If they are hyperactive, they may also be fidgety and impulsive.
ADHD can cause significant problems for children. It can cause problems with social interactions and performance at school. These issues can carry through to the teenage years, which can be significantly harmful to the child's daily life and growth.
ADHD in children and adults can often occur alongside other mental health conditions, including anxiety disorder, depression, and OCD.
OCD And ADHD Relationships
OCD and ADHD can affect relationships in many ways. The effects are different in romantic relationships compared to relationships with family and friends.
Those who experience symptoms of OCD tend to have a heightened sense of fear and worry.
Relationship OCD is also possible, where the OCD that a person experiences primarily revolves around their relationship with their partner. In romantic relationships, those with OCD can sometimes:
- Need constant reassurance and validation.
- Struggle with emotional or physical intimacy
- Worry excessively about compatibility
- Worry and feel insecure about relationship security
These issues can strain the relationship and lead to issues like resentment and feelings of inadequacy.
For those who experience ADHD or have a partner with ADHD, many similar issues can arise. If a partner has ADHD, they may forget important dates or errands. They may have trouble listening well, and impulsivity can cause them to say things without thinking them through, which can hurt their partner's feelings.
Issues can arise in familial relationships or friendships as well. Often, those who care about you may feel distressed because they do not know how to help you or worry. They may also find themselves in a difficult or demanding situation when they need to participate in the person's rituals with OCD. They may have to do this by providing space, time, and energy.
Simultaneously, the person with OCD can become depressed or feel ashamed and insecure due to the stress of fears and thoughts. People with ADHD may also feel ashamed and stressed by their troubles. This is very difficult for the person with the illness and their loved ones too.
Seeking help from a medical professional can be very helpful to the person experiencing the condition as well as their loved ones. It is one of the best ways you can help yourself and those who care about you.
Can You Have OCD And ADHD At The Same Time?
It is possible to have both ADHD and OCD. Both conditions' impact tends to be similar, such as poor performance in school or a workplace or trouble with social interactions and relationships. However, there are many differences in what leads to these consequences.
OCD is often associated with over-focusing and finding it difficult to be distracted, whereas ADHD is associated with not focusing well and being easily distracted. This may make it seem unlikely for both to occur at the same time. However, it is not uncommon.
Both conditions are associated with the same part of the brain, which means there can be some crossover symptoms.
Someone with ADHD may try to develop habits and behaviors that help them feel more organized and keep things in order. To deal with clutter and disorganization, the person may begin to organize, clean, and arrange things. However, these behaviors can present themselves as coping mechanisms and make the person spend excessive time on them: obsessive and compulsive. This is one of the ways the two conditions can manifest together, but there may be other possibilities as well.
Hence, it is important to know the difference between the two before ascertaining whether you have ADHD and OCD simultaneously.
A medical professional can only answer the question of "do I have OCD or ADD?" and it may help to keep track of your symptoms to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms related to both conditions. This can help if you consult a professional, and can put you on the right path for treatment.
OCD and ADHD are conditions that can feel extremely difficult to deal with because of how much they affect daily life. Both conditions are different but can cause the same damaging consequences in one's life. They can greatly affect your work, your relationships, and your self-image.
Taking steps toward understanding your condition and aiming to learn about it can show you that you are not alone in what you are feeling. Many people live with ADHD and OCD, but thankfully there are many avenues for managing the conditions.
There is nothing shameful about experiencing symptoms or living with ADHD and OCD. While it may seem daunting, deciding to seek help from a medical professional can put you on a path towards understanding yourself and leading a better life.