Don't judge a book by its cover: ADHD-like symptoms in obsessive compulsive disorder

Amitai Abramovitch, Reuven Dar, Andrew Mittelman, Avraham Schweiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reported OCD-ADHD comorbidity rates are highly variable and the two disorders are characterized by opposite symptomatology and antithetical pathophysiology. We hypothesized that OCD-related attentional impairment could be misdiagnosed as ADHD symptoms. Thirty adults with OCD, thirty with ADHD, and thirty matched healthy controls (HC) completed disorder-specific measures and an ADHD DSM-IV based questionnaire examining childhood and current symptoms. The ADHD group met significantly more current and childhood ADHD criteria than the other groups. Within the HC and ADHD groups, but not the OCD group, significant positive correlations were found between childhood and current ADHD symptoms. Only within the OCD group, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and ADHD criteria correlated positively. These findings support the predictions of the executive overload model of OCD, suggesting that ADHD-like symptoms in OCD may be a consequence of OCD symptomatology. Clinical implications of a potential misdiagnosis should be considered in light of the probability that stimulant medication exacerbates OCD symptoms. This is particularly important in children, where ADHD diagnosis is based primarily on informant reports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • ADHD
  • Attention
  • Comorbidity
  • DSM
  • OCD
  • Symptoms


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