Let’s look at PTSD and ADHD when it comes to our day-to-day living. Both PTSD and ADHD disorders can have a huge impact on our mental health and our well-being. Research has learned overtime that there are a lot in common between both PTSD and ADHD. Some studies have even noticed that there is a high chance of PTSD developing if you have ADHD and vice versa.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a mental health condition that is developed after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This can be described by intrusive thoughts about the incident, there are usually recurrent distress feelings and feelings of anxiety, flashbacks and tendencies to avoid situations that are similar.

Some symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Avoiding things that remind them of the trauma
  • Increased alertness
  • Irritability
  • Intrusive thoughts that are negative (Feelings of guilt)

At some point throughout our lives, most people are likely going to experience some sort of traumatic event throughout their life.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’. This is a brain disorder that is described by an ongoing display of inability to pay attention ‘inattention’, hyperactivity impulsivity or both that interferes with daily functioning or even development. ADHD is separated into three main types: Hyperactive-impulsive type, Inattentive type, or combination type.

Some symptoms of Hyperactive-impulsive type are:

  • Restless
  • Impatient
  • Act before thinking about the consequences of actions
  • Trouble engaging in activities that are relatively quiet
  • Constant talking
  • Difficulty sitting sill

Some symptoms of Inattentive type are:

  • Distracted easily
  • Difficulty focusing on a single task
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Gets bored easily

Are ADHD and PTSD related? 

Those with ADHD seem to have a dysfunctional stimulation of the same brain constructs that are associated with fear. Studies show that those with ADHD are more likely to suffer long lasting effects of PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. ADHD is usually found at a young age, whereas PTSD usually develops later in our lifetime. Those with ADHD tend to have higher risk-taking levels and behaviors that can lead to a traumatic event happening.

According to ‘The Science of Fear: Probing the brain circuits that link ADHD and PTSD’ article states that, “Deficits in attention and prefrontal cortical function resembling those in ADHD brains have been identified in people with PTSD as well. In rodents, prenatal nicotine exposure leads to both an ADHD-like phenotype as well as fear circuitry abnormalities like those seen in PTSD. In addition, both conditions are characterized by irregularities in dopaminergic neurotransmission. Both ADHD and PTSD have common genetic risk factors, including polymorphisms in the dopamine transporter gene and cannabinoid receptor gene,” (2022).

 

Similarity symptoms between ADHD and PTSD

  • Restlessness
  • Distractibility
  • Depression
  • Memory issues
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

According to WebMD they state that, “Scientists have also found that both cause changes to your prefrontal cortex, an area of your brain responsible for attention, impulse, planning, and other behaviors. PTSD and ADHD can trigger abnormal levels of hormones that set off your “fight-or-flight” response. Some studies suggest there’s a genetic link between the two conditions,” (2022).

How to treat both PTSD and ADHD

When it comes to treatment for PTSD, typically this involves psychotherapy which allows you to learn different coping skills in order to treat symptoms and other problems in connection with the PTSD including depression, drug and alcohol misuse, or anxiety. Medications can be given when treating for PTSD to allow psychotherapy treatment to be more effective. Studies show that some medication used to treat ADHD can help with symptoms of PTSD in some cases.

What to do if you are struggling with similar symptoms?

If you notice that you have similar symptoms that are causing trouble in your day-to-day life activities, reach out to your doctor. The first step is getting diagnosed so that you can properly get the treatment that you need to help reduce some of these symptoms.

Some ways to cope with PTSD on your own include physical activity, relaxation and meditation techniques such as guided meditation or deep breathing, and positive affirmations. If these techniques are not relieving symptoms of PTSD, then reach out to your doctor or therapist to utilize medication, psychotherapy or both.

Some ways to cope with ADHD on your own include breathing exercises, mindfulness such as meditation and deep breathing have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms like ability to focus, being distracted, and struggling with attention. Also, utilizing grounding techniques to bring your mind back to the here and now. If these techniques do not relieve symptoms and are causing distress in your life then reach out to your doctor or therapist to utilize medication, psychotherapy, or both.

Resources

Joseph Biederman, M. D., Mohammed R. Milad, P. D., & Andrea Spencer, M. D. (2022, June 15). The Science of Fear: Probing the brain circuits that link ADHD and PTSD. ADDitude. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-ptsd-fear-circuit-deficits/#:~:text=Is%20there%20a%20relationship%20between%20attention%20deficit%20hyperactivity,elevated%20risk%20for%20PTSD%20%E2%80%94%20and%20vice%20versa.

Key, A. P. (2022, July 14). Adult ADHD and PTSD: What’s the link? WebMD. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adult-adhd-ptsd

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