ADHD Look-Alikes

Mother speaking with her daughter in schoolyard 

Not everything that looks like ADHD is ADHD!

For example, children may be worried or stressed about events at home, at school, or in the world in general. Stressful events could include divorce or separation, moving, the death of a family member or pet, or the child's performance in school. These children may:

  • have difficulty concentrating
  • have difficulty listening to and following instructions
  • find it hard to sit still
  • be easily distracted
  • make careless mistakes

Behaviour symptoms like those of ADHD can also be caused by: 

  • learning disabilities
  • language problems
  • tiredness
  • hunger
  • side effects of medication for other health problems such as asthma
  • brain injury following an accident
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • developmental or intellectual disability

The doctor will want to rule out these and other possible causes before making a diagnosis of ADHD.

Peter Chaban, MA, MEd

Rosemary Tannock, PhD