OCD and ADHD: Is there a connection?

ADHD and OCD can be misdiagnosed as the same thing. It’s possible to have both. What is the connection between these two disorders?

Obsessive-compulsive (OCD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can both make it hard to complete daily tasks, focus, and manage your time, but for different reasons.

Speaking with a mental healthcare professional may be beneficial, regardless of whether you suffer from ADHD, OCD, or both. You can get help determining your diagnosis and developing a plan for managing your symptoms.

Differences between ADHD and OCD

ADHD is a neurological condition, while OCD is a disorder of anxiety.

There are different types and variations of ADHD.

  • Inattention and difficulty focusing
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

ADHD symptoms usually appear in childhood. They are typically diagnosed at around 12 years old.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness that can affect children and adults.

OCD usually involves two main symptoms.

  • Obsessions: persistent, intrusive thoughts
  • Compulsions: the urge to perform certain rituals or actions to relieve distress associated with these thoughts


Many people have OCD for no apparent reason. According to research, people with OCD tend to have a genetic predisposition. Certain events, however, can cause symptoms to develop, such as:

  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A bacterial or viral infections
  • Chronic stress

Learn more about OCD and its causes here.

The causes of ADHD are also not clear. Experts believe that a combination of factors could cause it.

  • Genetics
  • brain development
  • Early life experiences
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • brain injuries


OCD symptoms are classified as obsessions and compulsive behaviors. These obsessions and compulsive behaviors can differ dramatically between people.

You may have intrusive thoughts you find shameful or morally wrong. You may also see images of you hurting someone else or doing something that you find inappropriate.

Obsessions include the urge to do something you don’t want to. They can cause a lot of distress.

Compulsions can be defined as acts you perform to eliminate your obsessions, even if they are not fully understood.

They can be a wide range of rituals. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Repeating words or phrases verbally or mentally
  • Washing hands excessively
  • Checking locks repeatedly
  • Praying repeatedly

ADHD symptoms do not include obsessions and compulsions. They can include:

  • impulsive behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Focusing or remembering is difficult
  • Time management is a problem for many people
  • Moving from one activity to another without completing the first

ADHD symptoms may also vary from person to person.


Psychotherapy can benefit people with ADHD and OCD, but the treatment may differ.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT ) may help treat ADHD and OCD. Exposure therapy, a form of CBT, may be recommended more for OCD.

OCD is commonly treated with selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), prescription medications that are also prescribed to treat clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses.

Stimulants can treat ADHD, like methylphenidate, and amphetamines, such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Concerta, and Metadate.

You can also take nonstimulant medication for ADHD, such as guanfacine and atomoxetine.

Self-care strategies, such as sleeping enough and exercising, can be beneficial to anyone with ADHD or OCD.

Journaling, chatting with supportive family members, and engaging in relaxing hobbies can all be beneficial. Your strategy for self-care will be tailored to your individual needs.

OCD and ADHD: Is there a connection?

ADHD & OCD: Similarities

According to imaging tests Trusted Source, which examines brain activity, ADHD and OCD share some similarities.

Both ADHD and OCD cause abnormal brain activity in the frontostriatal region. This area of the brain modulates executive, cognitive, and motor functions as well as behavioral and behavioral abilities.

The brain areas involved in planning, executing, and organizing, as well as maintaining attention and controlling impulses, show “atypical” activity in people with ADHD or OCD. How this brain region communicates with the rest of the brain may be unusual or uncommon and is common to both disorders.

It can also affect your memory and ability to plan. This can affect your ability to make decisions or self-control.

ADHD and OCD present attention, impulse control, and planning symptoms.

While ADHD and OCD may differ, specific symptoms could be similar or overlap. It is possible to suffer from both.


Both OCD and ADHD share a common cause, which is a genetic component.

You are more likely to get OCD or ADHD if you have a blood relation with it.


OCD may seem utterly different from ADHD. While the symptoms of ADHD and OCD are other, they may look similar.

A child acting out their compulsions may appear impulsive or hyperactive.

They may be compelled to pace backward and forwards. This may appear to a teacher or parent as if the child “can’t stay still,” which is an ADHD symptom.

ADHD and OCD can both pose challenges in daily functioning.

People with either of these conditions may find it challenging to manage work, chores, and errands.

People with ADHD often experience anxiety disorders. The main reason for this is hyperactivity and inattention.

ADHD can cause people to have difficulty with:

  • Focus
  • Managing time
  • Regulating emotions

These challenges can also be experienced by people with OCD but for different reasons.

Obsessions and compulsions can take up much energy and time, making it hard to accomplish daily tasks.

A person with OCD may take a while to leave the house because of their compulsions. It may appear that they are having trouble managing their time.

ADHD can also be mistaken for OCD.

Some people with ADHD may only be able to concentrate in certain situations.

They might, for example, close the curtains and turn off their electronic devices or only sit in one position to do homework.

These behaviors may seem like compulsions to someone who doesn’t have ADHD, but they are routine for someone with ADHD.

A condition may be misdiagnosed. You may also misdiagnose your situation if you are not familiar with it. You may, for example, describe your symptoms as if they suggest OCD, but in reality, you have ADHD.

A professional could diagnose more accurately if they knew your motivations and thoughts.


OCD and ADHD symptoms can be effectively managed, even though neither condition can be “cured.” Treatment for OCD and ADHD can overlap at times.

SSRIs may be beneficial for both people with OCD and ADHD. SSRIs may not be helpful for everyone with these conditions. It depends on each individual.

Treatment for mental disorders and developmental problems will always be tailored to your needs.

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Can a person have ADHD and OCD at the same time?

It is possible to have ADHD and OCD. This is known as comorbidity or co-occurrence.

There is little evidence that one condition could cause another.

There needs to be a way to know the exact rate of co-occurrence. Some systematic reviews have pointed out that the estimated co-occurrence rate could be more consistent between different studies.

A study from 2016 found that OCD symptoms in adults with ADHD and OCD began earlier. Their OCD symptoms are also more prominent than those who do not have ADHD.