An expert in ADHD and OCD addresses the unique challenge of living with both.

For starters, Dr. Olivardia, how do you define ADHD, and what leads to a diagnosis of OCD? What separates them both from the type of stuff we all experience at times?

ADHD is a condition of neurodiversity marked by dysregulation of attention, executive functioning issues (problems with time management, organization, task initiation, working memory, etc.), and sometimes hyperactivity and impulsivity. Although everyone can relate to having problems paying attention to some things, people with ADHD find it very difficult to regulate their attention when they are not inherently stimulated. The executive functioning issues people with ADHD experience are constant and cause much interference, impairment, and frustration in their lives. That is very different than the occasional forgetting or procrastination people may typically have experienced in isolated incidents.

OCD is characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive in nature and cause distress and anxiety. Worries about real-life problems are not the same as obsessions. Even though logic may inform them that this is irrational, it is still very difficult to just pass it off. Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviors (such as checking or hand washing) or mental acts (such as saying words silently, praying, counting, creating images) that a person feels compelled to do in order to undo, neutralize, or cope with the obsession. The compulsion may have nothing to do with the actual obsession. This is constant for sufferers and causes much impairment and interference in their lives.

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