ADHD Traits Linked to Anxiety, Depression More Than Autistic Traits

There is a lack of funding for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and coinciding psychological research compared to the funds generated for autism research.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is predictive of poor mental health outcomes more than other neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism, according to data from the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and King’s College London that were published in Scientific Reports.

Mental health and ADHD severity share a direct link—the more intense a person’s ADHD traits, the greater likelihood of experiencing severe mental health symptoms; however, research and funds on the condition appear to be lacking.

“As the evidence becomes clear that ADHD isn’t just a childhood condition but persists throughout life, we must adjust our research agendas to better understand ADHD in adulthood,” said senior author Punit Shah, associate professor of Psychology at Bath, in a recent press release.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 3% to 9% of the world. It is characterized by the inability to pay attention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity, affecting the mental wellbeing of patients. The condition affects both children and adults said lead researcher Luca Hargitai, in a press release.

Past research explored the impacts of autism on depression, anxiety, and quality of life more than the impact of ADHD. This has led to ADHD patients struggling to access effective psychological and clinical care, according to the study.

“Scientists have long known that autism is linked to anxiety and depression, but ADHD has been somewhat neglected,” Hargitai emphasizes in the press release. “Researchers have also struggled to statistically separate the importance of ADHD and autism for mental health outcomes because of how frequently they occur together.”

The researchers aimed to measure how predictive ADHD personality traits are on poor mental health, including symptoms of autism as well. They compiled a large, nationally representative sample of UK adults, having them answer gold standard questionnaires about autistic traits and ADHD traits.

Researchers used analytic techniques and a computerized simulation to confirm that there is a stronger link between ADHD personality with anxiety and depression than between autistic traits and occurrence of anxiety/depression. Their findings were affirmed with a 100% ‘reproducability rate.’

Shah emphasizes that more research should be done to understand the relationship between ADHD and poor mental health outcomes. Hargaitai mirrors these sentiments, expressing hope that increased awareness on the link between ADHD and anxiety/depression will provide more resources to help individuals with ADHD manage their mental health.

“This is a step towards recognizing the broader impact of unmanaged and untreated ADHD,” said Tony Floyd, CEO of ADHD Foundation, The Neurodiversity Foundation, in the press release. “We hope this research will lead to more research being commissioned in this area. We also hope it will result in changes to the design and delivery of health services.”

Reference

University of Bath. The link between mental health and ADHD is strong – so why aren’t we paying attention? News Release. January 16, 2023. Accessed on January 17, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/976614

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