Is there an overlap between Asperger's and ADD?

I was diagnosed with Asperger's about 17 years ago. Sometimes I notice ADD traits in myself.

I've got 4 books on the go at once, it's rare for me to focus on one thing.

When I'm online I'll have about 25 tabs open at the same time. I struggle to remember what I'm interested in or doing because I keep thinking of something else I want to do. That's why all the tabs are open, to remind me of things I've been doing or reading about.

Would this indicate I should seek a diagnosis of ADD or is it a standard overlap that many people experience?

  • I seem to have some ADD traits. I mentioned this to someone and their immediate reaction was that I was definitely not ADHD. But, you know, the more I reflect on my childhood, the more I detect hidden moments of intense hyperactivity, largely away from the gaze of family. So you might also want to consider ADHD, because you might as well see the whole picture for yourself; even if you never talk to specialists about it.

    When I had an assessment, I would say it was quite clear to both myself and the diagnostician that I probably had quite a list of comorbidities; but none exactly acute. The diagnostician decided to only use the label Asperger's/ASD. The given reason was that as I live very far afield, a long list of associated issues might lead local ASD-unaware GPs into trying to treat only the stated side issues; given that they wouldn't know where to start on ASD, but would feel that they could do something about something like ADD; such as medication. Neither of us would consider medication a good idea, especially as I've experienced decades adapting, reasonably successfully, to my side issues.

    I think you will find that the suggested overlap is quite commonly acknowledged by both specialists and their subjects. I doubt that it would be worth seeking a further diagnosis. It is probably enough to self-identify as such, and just keep going with the adaptations you have detailed.

  • I see your point about how secondary diagnoses could distract attention from the most important one. 

    As you say it's good to be self-aware. I also wouldn't think medication would be a good idea for me due to immune system issues.

  • It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned this as I often pick up on ASD traits in people with an ADHD diagnosis. I think that it’s relatively common for the two to occur together. 

    It might be worth researching how ASD and ADD present together in the same person and see if that describes how you are.

  • Although medication is first line action with ADHD, it's only one option going forward.  10% of ADHDers don't respond to medication treatment, and another 10% can't tolerate the side effects (I seem to be one of the former).  Meds are helpful in order to help put into place non-med support (eg meditation, diet, exercise etc) but not obligatory.  

    I think it's always worth seeking a diagnosis, if only to confirm/refute your own suspicions.  The hyperactivity side can present as chattiness (espec in, but not limited to, females), interrupting others, a racing mind and general restlessness.  Important to recognise that the hyperactive element is also covered by impulsivity.  I know several people with ADHD who would never be recognised as having the condition - but are diagnosed with it.  

    I'd ignore most other people's comments: the general public have a very skewed idea of what ADHD looks like, based on the outdated stereotype of a 7-year-old boy bouncing off the classroom walls.  And the majority of GPs are barely any better informed.

    If you're interested in seeking a diagnosis, then go for it.  Try ADDitude - an American website but hugely informative and insightful, nonetheless.  Otherwise, AADD-UK (the facebook page, not the website) is supremely helpful.  Good luck!

  • I think in the old DSM-4, it prohibited the simultaneous diagnosis of both disorders. But because they discovered that there could be significant comorbidity among different disorders, DSM-5 allowed simultaneous diagnoses of multiple disorders.

    While I acknowledge that it's possible to have both ASD and ADHD, I personally can't relate to ADHD, as I think the ability to focus is kind of the exact opposite to ASD. With ASD, I could be engaged in a topic I enjoy for many hours continuously, but ADHD struggle to maintain an attention for that long. I suppose people with ASD could have trouble focusing when they are asked to do things they don't like or not being able to focus when there is 
    overwhelming information, but it seems different to the general inattentiveness in ADHD?

  • You're quite right. They didn't used to be able to diagnose both together, in countries that use the DSM. Which is a bit daft really as the two do occur together. I've known a number of children over the years who have the dual diagnosis of both ASD and ADHD. It's not the case that someone who has one can not have the other. 

    I can imagine that having that dual diagnosis would make for a lot of quite complex neurological conflict, with two disorders wanting to do different things in the same brain! Such as hyper focus vs decreased attention. I can relate to that conflict a little bit but in a different way as I have both ASD and ABI so I have conflict between the ASD need to be super structured and organised and the ABI tendency to be chaotic. It gets very mentally exhausting!! 

  • Not quite sure that I understand your view on a secondary diagnosis for ADD, in my case it has proved to be a positive thing because I struggle with Autism and ADD but as the ADD can be treated ( I am on medication right now) it does offer some relief from the condition thereby leading to some noticeable improvement in my quality of life-not a huge amount but real enough. Another effect of the capsules I am taking is a significant easing of the anxiety I live with constantly, it is reasonable to suggest that "NAS50812" could well benefit from a diagnosis too if it transpires that she/he does have the condition and can begin to receive treatment for it. Obviously it would be nice to do without the chemicals daily but I am firmly of the opinion that I would rather have a (perhaps foreshortened) life with increased mental capacity and focus than to live the remainder of my natural span living in this hell. 

    I was told by my very excellent GP that they are not allowed to prescribe the drugs used to treat ADD, this can only come from the consultant who diagnosed you, my consultant offered me a choice of 3 different drugs and I opted for Dexamphetamine which I am now taking 40mg per day,

  • If you have a GP who is worth talking to about these things, I would recommend that you at least have a chat with her/him about your suspicions and also bring up your concerns about the effects of all the different types of medication which are used to treat ADD/ADHD. An ADD diagnosis would perhaps be a good thing to discover because you will have identified one of the things which has caused you problems throughout your life and be able to receive treatment for it. 

    Your GP will at least have access via PC to all of the information you need so, what have you got to lose?