ADHD and Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and More

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC on April 29, 2016Written by Kelli Hansen, RN, CMCN, CSA, CDP

Overview

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health disorder. The symptoms include a lack of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive actions. Schizophrenia is a different mental health disorder. It can interfere with your ability to:

  • make decisions
  • think clearly
  • control your emotions
  • relate to others socially

While some of the defining characteristics of these two conditions may seem similar, they’re two different disorders.

Are the conditions related?

Dopamine seems to play a role in the development of both ADHD and schizophrenia. Research studies have indicated a possible relationship between the two conditions. Someone with schizophrenia could also have ADHD, but no evidence suggests that one condition causes the other. More research is necessary to determine if a relationship between the two conditions exists.

Symptoms of ADHD and schizophrenia

Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD include a lack of attention to details. This can lead you to appear more disorganized and unable to stay on tasks. Other symptoms include:

  • hyperactivity
  • a need to constantly move or fidget
  • impulsivity
  • an increased tendency to interrupt people
  • a lack of patience

Symptoms of schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia must occur for over six months. They may include the following:

  • You may begin to have hallucinations in which you hear voices, or see or smell things that aren’t real but seem real to you.
  • You may have false beliefs about everyday situations. These are called delusions.
  • You may have what are called negative symptoms, such as feeling emotionally dull or disconnected from others and wanting to withdraw from social opportunities. It may appear as if you’re depressed.
  • You may begin to have disorganized thinking, which can include having trouble with your memory or having difficulty being able to put your thoughts into words.

Causes and risk factors

ADHD

The cause of ADHD is unknown. Possible causes may include:

  • other illnesses
  • smoking
  • alcohol or drug use during pregnancy
  • exposure to toxins in the environment at a young age
  • a low birth weight
  • genetics
  • a brain injury

ADHD is more common in males than females.

Schizophrenia

The possible causes of schizophrenia include:

  • genetics
  • the environment
  • brain chemistry
  • substance use

The highest risk factor for schizophrenia is having a first-degree family member with the diagnosis. A first-degree family member includes a parent, brother, or sister. Ten percent of people who have a first-degree relative with schizophrenia have this disorder.

You may have about a 50 percent chance of having schizophrenia if you have an identical twin who has it.

How are ADHD and schizophrenia diagnosed?

Your doctor can’t diagnose either disorder using a single lab test or physical test.

ADHD is a chronic disorder that doctors often first diagnose in childhood. It may continue into adulthood. Your doctor will review your symptoms and daily functioning abilities to determine a diagnosis.

Schizophrenia can be difficult for your doctor to diagnose. Diagnosis tends to occur in both males and females in their 20s and 30s.

Your doctor will look at all of your symptoms over an extended period and can consider evidence a family member provides. When appropriate, they’ll also consider information school teachers share. They’ll determine other possible causes of your symptoms, such as other psychiatric disorders or physical conditions that could cause similar issues, before making a final diagnosis.

How are ADHD and schizophrenia treated?

ADHD and schizophrenia aren’t curable. With treatment, you can manage your symptoms. Treatment for ADHD may include therapy and medications. Treatment for schizophrenia may include antipsychotic medications and therapy.

Coping after diagnosis

Coping with ADHD

If you have ADHD, follow these tips to help you manage your symptoms:

  • Keep daily routines.
  • Make a task list.
  • Use a calendar.
  • Leave reminders for yourself to help you stay on task.

If you start to feel overwhelmed completing a task, split your task list into smaller steps. Doing this will help you focus on each step and reduce your overall anxiety.

Coping with schizophrenia

If you have schizophrenia, follow these tips to help you manage your symptoms:

  • Take steps to manage your stress.
  • Sleep more than eight hours per day.
  • Avoid drug and alcohol.
  • Seek close friends and family for support.

What is the outlook?

You can manage your ADHD symptoms with medications, therapy, and adjustments to your everyday routines. Managing symptoms can help you live a fulfilling life.

Receiving a schizophrenia diagnosis can greatly impact your life, but it’s possible to live a full and long life with this diagnosis if you get treatment. Seek additional support systems to help you cope after your diagnosis. Call your local National Alliance on Mental Illness office to get further educational information and support. The helpline is 800-950-NAMI, or 800-950-6264.

CMS Id: 102906