Researchers examine how ADHD symptoms affect mental health

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A new study suggests that adults with ADHD may need more mental health support. Image credit: Counter / Getty Images.
  • In a collaborative study, researchers analyzed adult questionnaire responses to examine the association between ADHD symptoms, autism symptoms, and mental health issues.
  • The researchers wanted to find out to what extent the symptoms of ADHD or autism exacerbated the symptoms of mental health problems.
  • After analyzing the responses, the researchers concluded that authorities need to raise more awareness of the mental health impact of ADHD, as they believe that people with ADHD tend to internalize their struggles. are more likely.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects many people from childhood to adulthood. ADHD often has several comorbid conditions, including mental health disorders.

Autism – sometimes referred to as “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) – can have some overlapping symptoms with ADHD. Although autism appears over a wide spectrum, some individuals experience symptoms that can more severely impair their quality of life.

For this reason, professional healthcare providers may consider that individuals with autism may have more difficulties with everyday life than those with ADHD.

Researchers from the Universities of Bath, Bristol, and Cardiff, and King’s College London – all in the United Kingdom – wanted to see whether people experiencing symptoms of ADHD or autism also had mental health symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, and the extent to which they experience those symptoms.

Through the questionnaires they analyzed, the researchers found that people with symptoms of ADHD were more likely to internalize mental health difficulties than those with autism.

The results of the study are available in the journal scientific reports,

ADHD often appears in childhood and can be diagnosed in a child as young as 4 years old.

The main symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity and/or inattention. Some other symptoms of ADHD may include being impulsive, making careless mistakes, having difficulties with executive functioning, and struggling with time management.

About 8.4% of children in the United States have a current ADHD diagnosis, and a a recent study It is estimated that 6.76% of adults globally have symptomatic ADHD.

Clinical psychologist at Choosing Therapy in Austin, TX, Dr. christa jordan spoke medical news today To further explain what drives the ADHD and depression connection. Doctor. Jordan said that short-allele variation 5-HTTLPR Serotonin-transport genes may play a role.

Doctor. “People who have the short-allele of this gene are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD,” Jordan explained. “Interestingly, this same short-allele variation 5-HTTLPR The gene has been associated with increased emotional sensitivity and reactivity.”

There are some ways providers can treat the symptoms of ADHD, which may include: dietary intervention and occupational therapy. Other people may find they need medicines.

Some stimulant and non-stimulant prescription drugs include:

For some individuals, unmanaged ADHD symptoms can lead to mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

The goal of the current research was to find out whether people with ADHD symptoms have a tendency to internalize their struggles.

They noted, first, that research into people with autism was more widely available than research focused on people with ADHD, so they wanted to help restore that balance.

“There has been a greater emphasis on ASD over ADHD in both research on internalizing problems and clinical practice,” the authors wrote.

Rather than rely on diagnostic criteria to assess the internal conflicts of people diagnosed with ADHD or autism, the researchers decided that the best approach was to survey the general population in the UK.

They recruited 504 participants aged 18–79. The average age of the participants was 45. The participants were almost evenly divided by sex, as 49% of the participants were male, and 51% were female.

All participants completed four questionnaires to assess symptoms related to autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression:

  • 28-Item Short Autism-Spectrum Quotient
  • 18-Item Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale
  • 7-Item Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale
  • The 9-item depression module of the Patient Health Questionnaire.

The researchers used them to analyze the association between autism and ADHD symptoms and mental health.

After analyzing the questionnaires, the researchers were able to confirm their suspicions that people with ADHD experience and internalize anxiety and depression. Additionally, the authors noted that people with ADHD symptoms internalized their issues more than those with autism symptoms.

“Our findings suggest that research and clinical practice should shift some of the focus from autism to ADHD,” says the lead researcher. luca hargitayDoctoral Researcher at the University of Bath.

The researchers also ran models of their questionnaire responses on a computer simulation and obtained the same result – this was what the authors referred to as a “100% reproducibility rate.”

“This indicates that ADHD symptoms will always prevail over ASD symptoms as predictors of internalizing problems at the population level,” the authors write.

The results of this study may help healthcare providers be more aware that people with ADHD symptoms may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. This awareness can increase the chances of treating these issues.

“The association between mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and ADHD is profound in clinical populations,” Dr Alison Chase commented in an interview with medical news today, “We often see significant comorbidity among these disorders.”

Dr. Chase has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and is the regional clinical director of the PathLight Mood and Anxiety Center. She was not involved in the study.

Doctor. Chase also shed light on the mechanisms behind ADHD and depression.

Dr. Chase commented, “The biological component of the etiology of ADHD as well as mental health disorders including depression and anxiety further supports why we see this crossover of behavior and symptoms in both children and adults.”

“Potentially similar mechanisms are at work because both mental health symptoms of anxiety and depression and ADHD are co-occurring,” he said.

Dr. David Feifel, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved in the research, also spoke with mnt about the findings of the study.

“This study is important because it confirms previous evidence that having ADHD increases the risk that a person will develop psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression,” Dr.

“In my experience, the depression and anxiety that manifests in adults can be a direct result of ADHD symptoms they’ve been struggling with since childhood. The problem is that many adults with undiagnosed ADHD seek help for the depression or anxiety, and don’t. Neither they nor their psychiatrists recognize that ADHD is underlying and driving those conditions, because ADHD in adults is hard to recognize and diagnose unless a doctor knows what to look for.”

– Dr. David Pfefel

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