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Paediatr Drugs. 2003;5(11):741-50.

Psychiatric comorbidities in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: implications for management.

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  • 1Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is frequently comorbid with a variety of psychiatric disorders. These include oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder (CD), as well as affective, anxiety, and tic disorders. ADHD and ADHD with comorbid CD appear to be distinct subtypes; children with ADHD/CD are at higher risk of antisocial personality and substance abuse as adults. Stimulants are often effective treatments for aggressive or antisocial behavior in patients with ADHD, but mood stabilizers or atypical antipsychotics may be used to treat explosive aggressive outbursts. Response to stimulants is not affected by comorbid anxiety, but children with ADHD/anxiety disorder may show greater benefit from psychosocial interventions than those with ADHD alone. The degree of prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder among children with ADHD is controversial, but a subgroup of severely emotionally labile ADHD children who present serious management issues for the clinician clearly exists. Antidepressants may be used in conjunction with stimulants to treat MDD, while mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics are often required to treat manic symptoms or aggression. After resolution of the manic episode, stimulant treatment of the comorbid ADHD may be safely undertaken. Recent research suggests that stimulants can be safely used in children with comorbid ADHD and tic disorders, but the addition of anti-tic agents to stimulants is often necessary. Clinicians who work with patients with ADHD should be prepared to deal with a wide range of emotional and behavioral problems beyond the core symptoms of inattention and impulsivity/hyperactivity.

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