What if My Child Has Multiple Disorders?

One reality that can make treating a child with mental illness particularly challenging is that the symptoms she is experiencing may come from multiple disorders. A child who has autism can also have ADHD; a teenager who has social anxiety can also be depressed. When a child has what clinicians call “coexisting” disorders, treating one will not make the other go away. For instance, if a teenager who has ADHD or depression uses alcohol to self-medicate, and develops a substance abuse disorder, treating the original disorder will not cure the substance abuse.

When children have more than one disorder, it’s important to work with a clinician, or a team of clinicians, who can understand how the childhood disorders interact, and come up with a treatment plan that responds to each of them. It’s especially important that any clinician who is prescribing medication be aware of all the coexisting disorders, all the medications that are being prescribed, and how they interact.