ADHD and OCDPeople with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have an anxiety disorder that results in obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. These thoughts and behaviours are experienced to such an extent that they get in the way of daily living.

People with OCD usually belong to one of these groups:

Checkers who continually check things associated with possible danger. They check for things such as: if the door is locked or if the stove is switched off.

Hoarders and collectors who keep unnecessary items. They don’t throw things away as they fear something bad will happen if they do.

Washers who are fearful of contamination. They have obsessions with cleaning or hand-washing.

Counters, arrangers / orderers who need symmetry and exactness. They might perform rituals and counting or seem superstitions about certain numbers and colors.

Sinners who fear if everything isn’t just so, they will be punished.

People with OCD often have ‘magical thinking’. They think if everything is perfect, nothing bad will happen. They perform their ritual; it offers a moment of mental peace before the obsessive thoughts start again.

Do you have ADHD, OCD or both?

ADHD and OCD might look alike. Both are highly genetic and result in reduced attention, poor memory and impulse control.

ADDers might also display behaviours that, on the surface, look like OCD. However, they have developed these behaviours to help themselves to function in the world, instead of the constant obsessive thoughts that drive a person with OCD.

For example, someone with ADHD might run round their home checking the windows and doors are shut and locked before they leave. Habits like these aid poor memory (which ADDers are prone to) and have been developed to avoid any unpleasant surprises.  In contrast, someone with OCD is probably already certain that everything is secure, but he /she would be checking due to an obsessive urge.

ADHDers who keep an organized environment do so because it gives them a sense of emotional peace. They know they feel more focused, less scattered in a space as such. It’s a way for them to control the negative effects of ADHD rather than an obsession.

Finally, ADDers often do have a lot of clutter; but rather than being hoarders, it’s because decluttering is boring and involves attention to detail to keep clutter at bay.

Another big difference between ADHD and OCD is chemical. ADHD is in part due to low dopamine levels in the brain and OCD is due in part to low serotonin in the brain.

The medications prescribed for the 2 conditions are different too. Stimulant meds like Ritalin, prescribed for ADHD, aren’t effective for OCD and SSRI anti-depressant meds aren’t usually helpful for ADDers.

While ADHD and OCD are very different, many people do have both ADHD and OCD. In fact, if you have ADHD, you have a higher percentage of also having OCD than someone with ADD.

Remember, if you have either OCD or ADHD or both: Don’t panic! Both can be treated and managed.


Do you have OCD and ADHD? What have you found most helpful in managing these conditions? Leave me a note comments section.



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  1. Dana says:

    I have found that Zoloft at 100 to 150 mg each day in the morning (to avoid insomnia) helps with my OCD and depression. I am a perfectionist and I believe my OCD stems from that or quite possibly my perfectionism is a way to control my OCD. But anyhow, I still had trouble focusing and getting things accomplished. I added 25 mg of Strattera and it literally changed my life! It felt as if a cloud (mental fog that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around) was lifted. At first, I took 25 mg each day, but after it built up in my system, I realized through trial and error, that I did better taking 25 mg every other day. I take the Strattera at lunch time every other day to avoid side effects (such as sleepiness, if I take it at the same time as the Zoloft). I do not have any other side effects such as sexual performance, dizziness, etc. It was with a lot of research that I found the right combo for me. It is amazing!

  2. RevW says:

    I really appreciate this: “Another big difference between ADHD and OCD is chemical. ADHD is in part due to low dopamine levels in the brain and OCD is due in part to too much serotonin in the brain.” It’s succinct, and covers a whole lot of *why* in ‘don’t give THAT med’ discussions.

  3. Wayne tribble says:

    I am 39 and have both adhd and icd. Nothing works anymore

  4. Ms B says:

    It never occurred to me in a million years that I may have ADHD. Despite my four year old being recently diagnosed. I knew ADHD was hereditary but his dr’s have always assured me that his ADHD is a result of sleep deprivation. However, after listening to Marcia Hoeck’s (how I found you) webinar Eat the Elephant a loud bell went off. I first listened to all of the podcasts on itunes and did more research. It all makes sense. My son (yes at 4) and I are both a little OCD. I can’t function with the slightest bit of clutter. However, if you open this bin I have you’ll find stacks of mail that have never been opened. I can’t make myself start a project no matter how important it is. I’ve been told I’m brilliant by others but yet, I’ve yet to reach my potential. Ahhh I could go on and on, but the reason this article really resonated was because, it never occurred to me that being hyper organized (mostly) was my way of trying to deal. My dad on the other hand is a mess. He’s 70 this year. I’m not sure how he’d take to me suggesting that he may have ADHD (all the other signs are there). What I’m hoping is that I’ll get help and he’ll see the marked improvement in me and then get help himself.

  5. abk1992 says:

    That sounds like a nightmare; I’m so sorry for your struggles. I hope things have gotten better since your post! I can empathize with the medication issues–I was misdiagnosed as bipolar (actually have depression with OCD and ADHD), and the mood-stabilizers and antipsychotics left me feeling like a total zombie.

    It takes a while to figure out, but a combination of stimulant and SSRI is common for co-morbid ADHD and OCD. That being said, everyone will have different side effects and levels of tolerance. Only your doctor can tell you what’s best, but if you share your side effects I’m sure they can help you. Luvox is an SSRI and Vyvanse actually is a stimulant, but you have other options. There are two stimulant families–methylphenidate-based (Ritalin, for example) and amphetamine-based (Vyvanse is one of these). There are also non-stimulants, Strattera and Wellbutrin, that can help both ADHD and anxiety/depression. The tricky issue is that stimulants can sometimes worsen anxiety conditions like OCD. In my experience, SSRIs can also make ADHD worse because they can affect dopamine levels. But don’t give up hope! My experience with Celexa (an SSRI) combined with various stimulants has been increasingly good.

    Good luck to you, and I hope everything works out!

  6. Savannah Cunningham says:

    Help! I have both ADHD and OCD. I believe its the ocd causing the adhd but I could be wrong. Anyways they both run my life and when i was seeking treatment i felt my therapist and parent were just shoving whatever antipsychotic they could find down my throat. The meds they ultimately chose left me feeling blank and my mind totally numb. I was acting reckless at the time while taking Luvox and Vyvanse because i was so numb i couldnt differ what was irresponsible. At the same time addiction runs rabid in my family so i was perscribed “special” meds and in all honsty i feel that maybe a potentially habit forming stimulant may actually be what i need. Please im begging anyone out there who feels my frustration to please give me any advice they have. I wanna believe that i wont be prisoner to my mind forever.
    Yours Truly,
    Savannah A. Cunningham
    Reno, NV

    • Sammy says:

      Hi Savannah. A lot of what you said resonated with me. I’ll briefly tell you my story so far and what I’ve found to be helpful and not so helpful.
      I’m 30, was diagnosed with major clinical depression 2 years ago, although in hind sight i probably have had it for 10 years. 3 months ago was also given a possible dual diagnosis of adult ADHD and OCD.
      There is also history in my family of addiction including myself.
      I take 20mg of Ritalin a day, 100mg of Desvenlafaxine, force myself to walk the dog every morning, cold shower, lots of weed, meditation and seeing a good psychologist once every week or two. It’s tough because everyone is so different but I hope this helps a little. Good luck and remember not to be hard on yourself. Sending love your way xx

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