Millions of children get diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders as early as 6 years of age. Ordinarily, these disorders fade into the background with time as their symptoms become less pronounced. Other times, however, they remain at the forefront with symptoms so severe they suffer a high risk of anxiety and depression, as well as other mental disorders, and a new study reports that disorders like ADHD pose greater risks. 

According to researchers from the University of Bath, adults living with severe ADHD symptoms suffer a higher risk of experiencing depression and anxiety compared to those living with high levels of autistic traits. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder better known as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), both developmental disorders that alter the brain’s execution of functions like decision-making and impulse control have seen spikes in diagnosis in recent years with both conditions even co-existing in some cases. Although scientists have established a connection between autism and mental health in the past, not much has been done to link ADHD to mental health prompting the need for the study. 

“Our aim was to precisely measure how strongly ADHD personality traits were linked to poor mental health while statistically accounting for autistic traits,” says the lead author of the study, Luca Hargitai. 

Study Methodology

To arrive at their findings, the researchers recruited over 504 adults from the United Kingdom, all aged between 18 and 79 years. Each participant filled out several questionnaires designed to assess both autistic and ADHD traits and also assess the existence and frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms.

Examples of statements found included in these questionnaires include: “I frequently get strongly absorbed in one thing” and “How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like you were driven by a motor?”

The information gathered was then statistically analyzed to establish a link between both developmental disorders and mental disorders. 

Results

The result from the study revealed a connection between both ADHD and ASD and issues like anxiety and depression with ADHD traits being a stronger predictor. The results reflected a direct relationship between ADHD traits and mental health issues, more specifically, the higher the trait levels of ADHD, the more likely a person is to experience severe mental health symptoms.

Statistical analysis also indicated that patients exhibiting ADHD traits are more likely to develop “internalizing problems” like anxiety and depression particularly among older patients compared to patients with autism traits.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States with a 2016 survey by the CDC estimating a total of 6.1 million patients between the ages of 2 and 17. This, therefore, emphasizes the need for the utmost attention to be paid to it and according to the study authors, “shift some of the focus from autism.” 

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