Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD: Overlapping Phenomenology, Diagnostic Issues, and Treatment Considerations

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Mar 22;21(5):34. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1020-5.


Purpose of review: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both increasing in prevalence and commonly co-occur with each other. The goal of this review is to outline what has been published recently on the topics of ASD, ADHD, and the comorbid state (ASD+ADHD) with a particular focus on shared phenomenology, differential diagnosis, and treatment considerations.

Recent findings: ASD and ADHD have shared genetic heritability and are both associated with shared impairments in social functioning and executive functioning. Quantitative and qualitative differences exist, however, in the phenotypic presentations of the impairments which characterize ASD and ADHD. For ASD interventions to be maximally efficacious, comorbid ADHD needs to be considered (and vice versa). The research on ASD and ADHD suggests some overlap between the two disorders yet enough differences to indicate that these conditions are sufficiently distinct to warrant separate diagnostic categories.

Keywords: ADHD; Autism; Autism spectrum disorder; Comorbidity; DSM-5; Diagnosis; Neurodevelopmental disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence