Controlling or eliminating seizures is typically the biggest treatment goal for people with epilepsy. However, epilepsy frequently occurs along with other learning, mood or behavior challenges. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is commonly associated with epilepsy.
You're not alone
People with epilepsy struggle with ADHD more frequently than the general population.
- Approximately 14% of children with ADHD develop seizures. Two or more seizures typically indicate epilepsy.
- ADHD is the most common diagnosis made in conjunction with epilepsy.
What these statistics reveal is if you, your child or another loved one struggles with both epilepsy and ADHD, you’re not alone.
The experts at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center can offer effective treatments and daily strategies that work.
What is ADHD?
ADHD may look slightly different for everyone, with individuals being either mostly inattentive, mostly hyperactive and impulsive or a combination of both.
A person who has inattentive ADHD has difficulty focusing on details, struggles to listen or is easily distracted. Hyperactive and impulsive ADHD behavior includes difficulty sitting still, interrupting others or fidgeting.
What are the risks of combining medications for ADHD and epilepsy?
While it’s common to worry that stimulant medications often used to treat ADHD may increase the number or severity of seizures, this is not a typical occurrence.
Some research shows ADHD medications may not work as well for people with epilepsy, so adjustments may be needed.
We’ll work together with you to carefully monitor any effects on behavior and seizures to adjust treatment as needed for best outcomes of your epilepsy.
There’s help for those who have both ADHD and epilepsy
At the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, we’re familiar with the challenges of treating both conditions at once. Our goal is to address your epilepsy and to work with your provider that's treating you for your ADHD.
The benefit of dual treatment at Ohio State
Our epilepsy team works hand-in-hand with behavioral and mental health experts to:
- Make seizures the priority treatment — we’ve found that controlling seizures can lead to improvements in ADHD
- Distinguish between ADHD behaviors that may look similar to or mimic seizures
- Track and understand all symptoms before adding or changing treatment
- Keep detailed records of symptoms over time for more effective adjustments in care
We work to facilitate open communication and partnership with each family to find the best ways to improve daily quality of life. This may lead to one or more recommended ADHD treatment strategy, along with your epilepsy treatment, including:
- Behavioral therapy
- Medication from another provider
- Skills training
- Life coaching for both patients and their families
- Direct communication with school specialists to help with accommodations or support