Are PTSD and ADHD Linked?

While PTSD and ADHD are two very different conditions, they’re often more closely linked than you might realize. Research has shown that if you have one of these conditions, you’re likely more susceptible to the other. 

That’s because they are conditions that can impact each other. The symptoms often look the same, and they can affect your mind in similar ways.

Let’s take a closer look at the link between PTSD and ADHD, including some of the similarities and differences and why it matters to receive a proper diagnosis. 

What Are These Conditions?

Chances are, you’ve at least heard of both PTSD and ADHD. The causes are often very different. PTSD occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. It can often make you feel as though the event just happened or even that you’re still in the thick of it, creating flashbacks and nightmares that won’t allow you to move forward. 

There’s no concrete cause when it comes to ADHD. Most people consider it a childhood disorder. But it impacts adults, too. ADHD often makes it difficult to focus and can create restlessness, making it challenging to stay on track at work or school and difficult to stay focused in relationships.

What Are the Shared Symptoms?

On paper, these are two very different conditions with different causes. But, there is plenty of symptom overlap that can make it difficult for someone dealing with one (or both) to get the diagnosis they deserve. 

For example, both ADHD and PTSD can make it difficult to concentrate. They can cause restlessness, irritability, and distractibility. They can make it difficult to get enough sleep at night, which can exacerbate symptoms and put you at risk for other mental health conditions, including depression.

Of course, there are differences. PTSD is often accompanied by vivid flashbacks and images of the trauma that was experienced. But, if you experienced trauma a long time ago, those images might not be as clear. 

The Mind Connection

It’s also important to note that these conditions impact the brain similarly. They both affect the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for problem-solving, planning ahead, and impulsive behaviors.

If you’re not sure why the prefrontal cortex is so important, think of a teenager you know. The prefrontal cortex isn’t fully formed until adulthood, so the teen brain is different from yours. If you’ve noticed that it’s difficult for most teens to think things through before making big decisions, that’s why. They can be impulsive when something excites or upsets them. Unfortunately, that can lead to risky or unhealthy behavior.

If your prefrontal cortex is impacted by either ADHD or PTSD (or both), you could end up participating in unhealthy behaviors, as well. On top of that, these conditions can heighten your fight-or-flight response. You might always feel like you’re on high alert or waiting for something bad to happen at any moment.

Obviously, that creates a lot of extra stress and anxiety, contributing to a vicious cycle of fear and tension. 

What Can You Do?

The best thing you can do if you think you have one of these conditions is to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Treatment options are available for both, but getting on the right medications and receiving the right support is essential.

Self-care practices can help manage both conditions. Prioritize sleep, stay physically active, and try mindfulness or meditation to stay centered on the present.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Therapy is often the best way to manage both of these conditions. A therapist can help you better understand the cause of your current needs. Contact our office for an appointment. Together, we can help you take the steps necessary to manage your symptoms and find relief.

Be well,

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