Where can I find reliable ADHD information and resources?

Getting a diagnosis and finding an appropriate treatment plan are both extremely important and can have positive lifelong effects. Having accurate, science-based information is vital for making the decisions needed to create a good treatment plan and put in place the strategies and lifestyle accommodations that can help lead to success for yourself or your child.

Reliable Information

infographic adhd resources

Researching ADHD can be like drinking out of a fire hose. There’s a great deal of information about ADHD but, unfortunately, a lot of it is misleading, incomplete or incorrect.

Where can you go and who can you trust? Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have information that is current and based on scientific research.

Look to CHADD’s National Resource Center, which is a joint program between the CDC and CHADD. You can trust the professionals and information from ADHD treatment centers that are connected with universities and research hospitals. And, of course, you can turn to health care providers and other professionals who have expertise in, and experience with, ADHD.

Reliable Resources

The ADHD Awareness Month Coalition is comprised of members from Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD), the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), and ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO). These three non-profit organizations are sponsoring the 2020 Virtual International Conference on ADHD held from November 5 – 7, 2020 with most recorded sessions available for two weeks following the conference. This conference is a great opportunity to listen to, and ask questions of, the conference speakers, as well as receive current science-based information about ADHD and its treatment. An added bonus is that the virtual conference is an opportunity to interact with other attendees through virtual peer support groups and discussion groups.

CHADD has more than 100 support groups around the country, as well as the latest evidence-based information shared via fact sheets, separate training programs for adults, parents and teachers, as well as podcasts.

ADDA, a non-profit for adults with ADHD, provides reliable information, webinars, workshops, and virtual support groups.

ACO is also a good resource with the largest directory of ADHD coaches anywhere.

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About the Author

The ADHD Awareness Month Coalition is comprised of members from the non-profit organizations Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD), Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) and ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO). The mission of ADHD Awareness Month is to educate the public about ADHD by disseminating reliable information based on the evidence of science and peer-reviewed research.


References

Can you have a successful life with ADHD?

An Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) can be devastating. We think, “This can’t be good! ‘Disorder’ is right there in the name.” Yes, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity can cause problems at school, at work and in relationships.[i] And people with ADHD face a lot of stigma.[ii] But we find what we look for, and we’ve been looking for the problems ADHD causes for a long time. Remember, mental health isn’t only about not having an illness or disorder. Mental health is about recovery, coping, well-being and flourishing.[iii] With ADHD, your brain works differently, but not all those differences are bad.[iv] Broader studies find ADHD attributes like high energy, creativity, hyperfocus, agreeableness, empathy and a willingness to help others.[v]

infographic success with adhd

There are many successful people with ADHD. That fact alone is a clue. But even better, these people often succeed because of the positive traits of their ADHD. Their ADHD helps them flourish.[vi] ADHD impairments exist across a spectrum, and there’s no denying severe impairments can make life tough. But as we expand our search, we’re finding more positive aspects of ADHD. ADHD helps with divergent thinking[vii] and creativity that delivers real world achievements[viii]. People with ADHD use hyperfocus to enhance productivity. The “focused work-rate that hyperfocus produces enables creative genius to flourish”[ix]. People with ADHD “don’t fit in,” feeling like outsiders.[x] This individuation lets them blaze their own trail instead of following the crowd[xi]. Life with ADHD has taught them self-acceptance. Impulsivity, showing up as adventurousness or intuition, is an advantage in many careers. Hyperactivity can make it hard to sit still in school, but many adults harness that ADHD drive. When you are passionate about a goal, your ADHD energy drives performance and productivity.[xii]

You can have a successful life with ADHD; however, like anything else, it will present challenges. But there are positive aspects of ADHD. And when you can see these as benefits, resources, skills or strategies you can begin to use it to overcome many challenges.

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About the Author

Duane Gordon

Duane Gordon, President, Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA). Gordon lives in Montreal, Canada. An adult with ADHD, Gordon has been a passionate advocate in the ADHD community for over 25 years.


Footnotes

[i] Able SL, Johnston JA, Adler LA, Swindle RW (2007) Functional and psychosocial impairment in adults with undiagnosed ADHD. Psychol Med 37(1):97–107

[ii] Thornicroft G, Brohan E, Kassam A, Lewis-Holmes E (2008) Reducing stigma and discrimination: candidate interventions. Int J Ment Health Syst 2(3):1–7

[iii] Repper J, Perkins R (2006) Social inclusion and recovery: a model for mental health practice. Bailliere Tindall, UK

[iv] Epstein JN, Loren REA (2013) Changes in the definition of ADHD in DSM-5: subtle but important. Neuropsychiatry (London) 3(5):455–458

[v] Mahdi S, Vijoen M, Massuti R, Selb M, Almodayfer O, Karande S, de Vries PJ, Rohde L, Bölte S (2017) An international qualitative study of ability and disability in ADHD using the WHO-ICF framework. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 26(10):1219–1231

[vi] Sedgwick J, Merwood A, Asherson P (2018) The positive aspects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a qualitative investigation of successful adults with ADHD. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 11:241–253 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12402-018-0277-6

[vii] Guilford JP (1967) The nature of human intelligence. McGraw-Hill, New York

[viii] White HA, Shah P (2006) Uninhibited imaginations: creativity in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pers Individ Differ 40:1121–1131

White HA, Shah P (2011) Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pers Individ Differ 50:673–677

[ix] Fitzgerald M (2010) Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder link to genius, Thursday, 4 February 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8496955.stm. Accessed 10 September 2020

[x] Jung CG (1921) Psychological types. In: Collected works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 6, Eds., G. Alder and RFC. Hull (1971), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

[xi] Jung CG (1921) Psychological types. In: Collected works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 6, Eds., G. Alder and RFC. Hull (1971), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

[xii] Deci EL, Vansteenkiste M (2004) Self-determination theory and basic need satisfaction: understanding human development in positive psychology. Ricerche di Psicologia 27:23–40


What can help people with ADHD who need to spend a lot of time on their computers?

Excessive screen time to the most experienced users can be a physical, mental and emotional strain to say the least. The American Optometric Association notes that the average American worker with a desk job spends at least seven hours a day looking at computer screens, which does not include leisure time use. Under the best of circumstances, ADHD folks find computer material interesting and, therefore, stimulating which allows for heightened and sustained mental focus for long periods of time.  This could be a video game for hours at a time, binge-streaming a favorite tv series, a student Zooming all day in school, and a worksite that requires regular use of a computer and monitor. Under these conditions, best practices for sustainability would include exercise such as a brisk walk or moderate run, reasonable sleep, and good nutrition before getting on the computer.

Infographic ADHD and screens

While at the computer, reduce eye and body strain by adjusting the blue light of the screen to an amber or “night-time” setting. Take a break after every 25 minutes for 5 minutes, and while on the break, to reduce eye strain look away from the screen to focus on an object 25 feet away for 25 seconds. During your 5-minute break, step outside and take the dog for a quick walk around the block to stretch fatigued muscles while being mindful of yourself and breathing fully.

Consider using computer glasses to filter blue light and don’t forget to blink.

Under more challenging circumstances, we are tasked to attend to boring but important material on the computer screen. This difficulty to maintain focus suggests that it is even more important to do the 25 minutes on with a 5-minute break that takes you outdoors if possible. 

A timer is a valuable tool not only to keep track of the 25 minutes but especially for sticking with the 5-minute break. Other strategies include varying posture or standing up, which can be accomplished by using stand-up desks or treadmill desks.

Consider using Fidget to Focus®” strategies to assist focus on tedious computer material. Fidget-to-focus multi-tasking recognizes that ADHD folks use one sensory modality in the background to increase neuro-stimulation while simultaneously allowing the weaker sensory input to sustain focus for longer periods of time. This could be doodling while listening to a lecture, listening to music in the background while working on the computer, twirling a pen or playing with a “Tangle-toy” while watching a screen, or chewing gum or munching on carrots while listening to a pre-taped lecture on the computer.

It also helps to reduce unintended distractions by turning off social media and internet sites while working at the computer.

So, whether viewing interesting or tedious material on computer screens for long periods of time, the very action can be physically, mentally, and emotionally stressful.  Fortunately, many simple to use strategies are easily accessible, readily available, and offer relief.  

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About the Author

Roland Rotz

Roland Rotz, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, and director of the Lifespan Development Center in Carpinteria, CA.  For over 30 years Dr. Rotz has focused on providing quality diagnostic and clinical services to children and adults, particularly those with ADHD. 


Aren’t medications for ADHD just different versions of illegal drugs?

The active ingredients of most medications that work for ADHD, including the stimulants methylphenidate and amphetamine salts, are thought to impact levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in brain regions that can improve self-control of attention and behavior.  However, they also have strong effects on brain regions that register chemical reward, which is thought to be why ADHD prescriptions can produce effects similar to those of illegal drugs, particularly when they are taken into the body more quickly than they are designed to be delivered for ADHD treatment. In addition, some individuals may have atypical side effects or other reactions to taking these medications that lead to problematic use patterns, including tolerance – wherein they have less effect over time.

All individuals receiving stimulants should be monitored for signs of dependence and abuse.  A comprehensive evaluation and close monitoring by a prescribing physician is thought to increase the chance of identifying problems before or as they emerge. If a person has a history of substance misuse or dependence, there may be a higher risk that ADHD medications will be misused or abused – and other nonstimulant medications or non-medication supports for ADHD should be used instead. 

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craig surman

Dr. Craig Surman is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the Scientific Coordinator of the Adult ADHD Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the largest research programs of its kind in the world. Dr. Surman has directed or facilitated over fifty studies related to ADHD in adults, and co-authored many articles in peer-reviewed publications.


References

  • Swanson, Wigal and Volkow 2011. Contrast of Medical and Nonmedical Use of Stimulant Drugs, Basis for the Distinction, and Risk of Addiction: Comment on Smith and Farah (2011). Psychological Bulletin 2011, Vol. 137(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3187625/
  • Cassidy, Varughese, Russo, Budman, Eaton, and Butler. Nonmedical Use and Diversion of ADHD Stimulants Among U.S. Adults Ages 18-49: A National Internet Survey.  Journal of Attention Disorders 2015, Vol. 19(7). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23269194/

Isn’t ADHD just an excuse for laziness?

People with ADHD may focus very well on a preferred activity (e.g., playing or sport or video games), yet are unable to demonstrate that same kind of focus and self-management for their schoolwork or their job. Their ADHD symptoms are the result of neural messages in their brain not being effectively transmitted, unless the activity or task is something really interesting to them, something that, for whatever reason, “turns them on.” 

Infographic ADHD and laziness

For people with ADHD, neural messages related to tasks that strongly interest them tend to be strong, bringing intensified motivation. For tasks they do not perceive, either consciously or unconsciously, to be quite as interesting, the neural messages tend to be weaker. If messages are not sufficient enough to activate a person, it is likely to make them seem unmotivated or lazy. For 80% or 90% of people with ADHD, medication can significantly improve such problems.

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Thomas e brown

Thomas E. Brown earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Yale University and served on the Yale faculty for 25 years. He is now Director of the Brown Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders in Manhattan Beach, CA, is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and has published numerous articles and six books on ADHD. His website is www.BrownADHDclinic.com


Resources

  • Volkow, N.D, Wang, GJ, Newcorn, JH, et al: Motivation deficit in ADHD is associated with dysfunction of the dopamine reward pathway. Mol Psychiatry 16 (11) 1147-154. 2011
  • Volkow, ND, Wang GJ, Tomasi, D, et al: Methylphenidate-elicited dopamine increases in ventral striatum are associated with long-term symptom improvements in adults with ADHD. J. Neurosicence 32 (3): 841-849. 2012

What are the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing at work that I have ADHD?

The main rule is that an employee or someone applying for a job is not obligated to report medical diagnoses to the employer. However, where certain personal characteristics hamper the performance of (part of) the job, it may be necessary to report these characteristics apart from actually mentioning the name of this brain property called ADHD. More and more employers have an HR culture that is open to people with ADHD, etc. In those cases, it is advisable to disclose that you have ADHD. This has obvious advantages, but can, in other cases sometimes, also have disadvantages.

Infographic Disclosing ADHD at Work

Possible disadvantages are: Although in most countries discrimination because of a handicap is prohibited (UN treaty on disabilities), you may not get the job or it may even be an extra reason in case of dismissal. The employer can conceal these reasons. It could also influence the appraisal of your job performance. Another reason not to be explicit about your ADHD could be that your manager or colleagues may treat you negatively at work. Or, in some cases, colleagues can overshoot the mark in their helpfulness and thus regard you as a not fully-fledged “disabled person.”

It helps if you have accepted your ADHD. If you have overcome your negative self-image and know your strengths and weaknesses, sharing your diagnosis can have advantages. If you are able to level with your employer that “the right person at the right place” favors both sides, you can discuss reasonable, useful adjustments, like job-carving, having a colleague as a buddy or a concentration room, or even working part of the week at home; whatever can help your performance. So, bring forward the relevant characteristics of your ADHD and get the position that fits to your qualities. No disclosure including the diagnosis of ADHD means no adjustments and no special rights.  

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Hans van de Velde

Hans van de Velde, entrepreneur and employer since 1989 and coach since 1998, has ADHD and dyslexia himself. As a volunteer he is active in the Dutch association for people with ADHD etc. and member of the board of ADHD Europe. He started the foundation ‘European Brains @ Work’ that helps employers to make more profit with the 10% of their employees that have a special brain like ADHD, dyslexia, autism and giftedness.

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Why are there so many people with ADHD in the prison population?

We see people every day in clinic who are failing in life, whether that’s at school, college or work. It may be that they are struggling in their relationship or indeed they don’t have any. For this portion of our ADHD community, life is hard. Self-esteem can be incredibly low, depression and anxiety are common, and from those points forward, anything can influence the ADHD person’s life. If they are lucky they will have a positive influence, “a significant adult.” If they are unlucky, they can find friendship and solace inappropriately. When this happens, we find the vulnerability of these emotions allows a negative influence, drugs are tried, crime rewards their friendships, and maybe for the first time “I feel I fit in.” Add to this heady mix of emotional vulnerability some impulsivity, inattention to the many attempts to tell them what is “right from wrong” and always being the person with a “buzz” and energy, and, sadly, we can see the recipe for breaking our laws. We can go further and discuss controlling emotions and lashing out, as a child that may mean hitting a sibling, as an adult that could mean hitting another grown up, or damaging someone’s possessions. 

Infographic adhd in prison

We know that people with ADHD feel rejected and “different” from at least the age of 6. But we can reverse this trend with education, training, and cultural change amongst professionals who care and have responsibility for our children. And let’s be clear, this needs to happen now. ADHD is incredibly pervasive, it can cruelly destroy a bright future, and the damage to our economy if far greater than the investment needed to change things. It costs the UK a whopping £74million1 a year to house our ADHD prisoners it’ll cost about £30 thousand to treat them. Even if we invested heavily in training and support, even if we only halved the number in prison, there is no doubt we would make a huge difference. And as a final note, if we could divert those 10,000 people we could keep out of prison into being tax payers we would recoup the costs of doing this.


1 Costs per place and costs per prisoner by individual prison HM Prison & Probation Service Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18 Management Information Addendum Ministry of Justice Information Release

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Phil Anderton

Phil Anderton PhD entered the world of ADHD as a senior police officer in the UK, realising that the causation factors for young people entering the criminal justice system included neurodiversity and this was very much misunderstood, if considered at all.  His work led to him publishing books, papers and addressing conferences worldwide. He was the first police officer to address the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and he trained police officers in the References between ADHD And crime across the USA and Europe. Since retiring from the police Phil has set up his own Healthcare Business, ADHD 360 Limited, and his company now manages a patient caseload of c600 patients from assessment through to treatment for their ADHD. Phil lives in rural England, works too hard and is married to Samantha, who incidentally is the person that insists he works too hard.

Are there supplements that can improve ADHD symptoms?

Over the last decade, a number of different studies have investigated whether a combination of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) can have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms in both children and adults. The premise behind a combined approach is that all nutrients are required for optimal brain health, such as making neurotransmitters, fighting inflammation, or assisting with the functioning of the bacteria inside of us. They can also counter the effects of modern diets consisting of mainly ultra-processed foods. While not everyone responds to this approach, for those who do benefit, the effects are often substantial and can be seen across all areas of functioning. While the effect on ADHD symptoms tends to be quite slow (it can take a few weeks to notice changes and the effect tends to grow over a long period of time), some symptoms like explosive rage, can improve in just a few days. The strongest effects noted in research have been improved attention as well as emotional regulation and reduced aggression.

Infographic ADHD Suppliments

There are very few side effects associated with taking micronutrients. Indeed, anecdotally children are reported to be healthier–skin conditions clear up, fewer colds, fewer infections — when taking additional nutrients with their diet. Rebound does not occur when the nutrients wear off and there does not appear to be an effect on appetite or sleep (as long as the nutrients aren’t consumed too close to bedtime).

It is always best to try to get micronutrients from our food  — eating nutrient rich foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, and fish. However, for some people that won’t be sufficient, perhaps because of individual differences on top of eating foods that have become nutrient depleted over time (due to poor replenishment in soil, selecting foods that grow quickly, etc). In those cases, source one of the mineral-vitamin supplements that have been studied successfully in research. They are publicly available for purchase.

More research is required; however, the preliminary studies are encouraging and considering the low risk associated with minerals and vitamins, some families may choose to go down this route first before considering alternatives.  

Other nutrients found to be important for ADHD include the omega 3 fatty acids  — although the best source of omega 3 fatty acids is from fish (and the recommended fish intake is once to twice a week), there is sufficient research to suggest at least 500mg of EPA taken in pill form can have a modest but significant effect on ADHD symptoms. This shouldn’t be surprising given the importance of these fats in brain heath.

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Julia Rucklidge

Julia Rucklidge is a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing at the University of Canterbury and the Director of Te Puna Toiora, the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab.


References

  • Rucklidge, J. J., Eggleston, M., Johnstone, J., Darling, K., & Frampton, C. (2018). Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 59(3), 232-246. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12817
  • Rucklidge, J. J., Frampton, C., Gorman, B., & Boggis, A. (2014). Vitamin-mineral treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 204(4), 306-315. https://doi.org/doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.113.132126
  • Rucklidge, J. J., Frampton, C., Gorman, B., & Boggis, A. (2017). Vitamin-Mineral Treatment of ADHD in Adults: A 1-Year Naturalistic Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Attention Disorders, 21(6), 522-532. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054714530557
  • Rucklidge, J. J., Gately, D., & Kaplan, B. (2010). Database analysis of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder consuming a micronutrient formula. BMC Psychiatry, 10(1), 74-74. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244x-10-74
  • Rucklidge, J. J., & Harrison, R. (2010). Successful treatment of Bipolar Disorder II and ADHD with a micronutrient formula: A case study. CNS Spectrums, 15(5), 289-295. 
  • Rucklidge, J. J., Johnstone, J., Gorman, B., Boggis, A., & Frampton, C. (2014). Moderators of treatment response in adults with ADHD treated with a vitamin-mineral supplement. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 50, 163-171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2013.12.014
  • Rucklidge, J. J., Johnstone, J., Harrison, R., & Boggis, A. (2011). Micronutrients reduce stress and anxiety in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder following a 7.1 earthquake. Psychiatry Research, 189(2), 281-287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2011.06.016
  • Rucklidge, J. J., & Kaplan, B. (2014). Broad-Spectrum Micronutrient Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Rationale and Evidence to Date. CNS Drugs, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-014-0190-2
  • Johnstone, J., Leung, B., Gracious, B., Perez, L., Tost, G., Savoy, A., Hatsu, I., Hughes, A., Bruton, A., & Arnold, E. (2019). Rationale and design of an international randomized placebo-controlled trial of a 36-ingredient micronutrient supplement for children with ADHD and irritable mood: The Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) study. Contemporary clinical trials communications, 16, 100478. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100478
  • Gordon, H. A., Rucklidge, J. J., Blampied, N. M., & Johnstone, J. M. (2015). Clinically significant symptom reduction in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treated with micronutrients: An open-label reversal design study. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 25(10), 783-798. https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2015.0105 Darling, K., Eggleston, M., Retallick-Brown, H., & Rucklidge, J. (2019). Mineral-Vitamin Treatment Associated with Remission in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms and Related Problems: 1-Year Naturalistic Outcomes of a 10-Week Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 29(9), 688-704. https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2019.0036

If my child is diagnosed with ADHD, won’t they be labeled?

Terms we use to identify our attention, learning and other challenges can serve to either stigmatize our differences, or conversely, legitimize our differences. By legitimize, I mean help us to understand them, validate them, and learn to see them in a hopeful new light. For many of us, this is an important step in our efforts to grow more resilient in the face of adversity. Researchers who study resilience through the lifespan tell us that this appears to be an important first step regardless of our age. It’s true for children, as well as for adults.

How can parents of children struggling with ADHD and related differences learn more?

Infographic Labeled with ADHD

Trusted organizations like CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) can help (www.chadd.org).

The organization draws heavily on current research in the field of ADHD and enjoys close working relationships with some of our nation’s leading authorities in the field as well.

Another important benefit of CHADD is that the information provided encompasses the impact of ADHD and related challenges through the lifespan. As experts in the field remind us, ADHD for many can persist through adulthood.

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Mark Katz

Mark Katz, Ph.D., is a clinical and consulting psychologist in San Diego, California, and author of the book, Children Who Fail at School but Succeed at Life. The book is a follow-up to his earlier book, On Playing a Poor Hand Well. For over 30 years, Mark has served as the Director of Learning Development Services, an educational, psychological and neuropsychological center in San Diego, California. Mark is also a contributing editor for Attention Magazine and writes the magazine’s promising practices column. In addition, Mark is also a past recipient of the CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) Hall of Fame Award, which the organization gives each year to recognize and honor individuals they feel have made significant contributions to improving the lives of individuals affected by ADHD.

What are the long-term health implications of ADHD?

More than 50 years ago, studies on ADHD (then called hyperactive child syndrome or hyperkinesis) began to show markedly elevated risks for accidental injuries of virtually all forms among children and youth with the disorder, including burns, poisonings, dental trauma, lacerations, broken bones, as well as closed head trauma, among others.  Moreover, ADHD is linked to increased adverse consequences in nearly every major domain of life activity studied to date whether in children, teens, or adults.  Many of those domains have a direct or indirect impact on health, such as risk for increased reactive aggression, crime and drug use, poor diet, sedentary activities, personal stress, and intimate partner violence.  Adverse driving outcomes, including more vehicular crashes, are also associated with ADHD as is an increased risk for suicidal ideation, attempts, and completions.  Among the more recently studied domains have been the direct adverse health consequences linked to growing up with ADHD.  These include an increased risk of seizures, obesity, eating pathology, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use, dental caries, and plaque (besides trauma), sleeping problems, migraines, and risk for future coronary heart disease.  The disorder is also associated with a decreased involvement in preventive health, nutrition, and dental hygiene activities.

Infographic ADHD Health Implications

All of these findings would predispose to an increased risk for greater morbidity (injury and disease) and likely earlier mortality.  Hence, one should not be surprised that studies over the last 20 years showed that children with ADHD are nearly twice as likely to die by age 10 than are typical children, primarily due to accidental injury.  This risk doubles again by adulthood where several studies showed that adults with ADHD are 4-5 times more likely to die by mid-life than are typical adults.  This early mortality often results primarily from accidental injury but also by suicide and homicide.  Many of the health conditions cited above are well-known correlates of reduced life expectancy and are used in algorithms that predict life expectancy as occurs in public health research and in the life insurance industry. 

Does ADHD reduce total estimated life expectancy (ELE) if left untreated? 

One recent study by Dr. Mariellen Fischer and myself was the first to focus on that issue.  It found a striking reduction in ELE linked to the disorder by young adulthood.  It reported that cases having hyperactive child syndrome, or ADHD-Combined Presentation, in childhood manifested a 9.6 year reduction in healthy ELE in remaining years, a 1.2 year period of greater unhealthy life expectancy in remaining years, and an overall 8.4 year reduction in total life expectancy than did control children by young adulthood.  Moreover, the persistence of ADHD to adult follow-up was associated with an even worse impact on these ELE measures, with a 12.7-year reduction in healthy life expectancy and an 11.1-year reduction in total ELE than was seen in control cases.   Persistent cases had a 5.3-year reduction in healthy life expectancy and a 4.6-year reduction in total ELE than nonpersistent ADHD-C cases.  And both persistent and nonpersistent ADHD cases had significantly lower ELEs by adulthood than did control cases.  

The magnitude of such reductions in life expectancy is both stunning and sobering when one realizes that such reductions are far greater than those associated with smoking, obesity, alcohol use, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure either individually or combined!  Why?  Because ADHD has been found to predispose individuals to engage in a number of such adverse health and lifestyle activities. 

For instance, we noted that the disorder reduced ELE in our study through its association with eight of the 14 variables entered in the ELE calculations. These included the demographic factors of reduced education, lack of high school graduation, and lower annual income in the ADHD-C groups but also in the health and lifestyle factors of greater alcohol consumption, poorer overall health, reduced sleep, increased likelihood of smoking and of smoking more than 20+ cigarettes per day, and possibly greater adverse driving consequences resulting in license suspensions and revocations.  It is chiefly the background trait of behavioral disinhibition that biases those with ADHD toward poorer health choices, less use of health maintenance practices, and so to eventual adverse health outcomes. 

Recently, a large-scale study that scanned the human genome of thousands of cases involving ADHD as well as typical people showed that there is a shared genetic risk between ADHD and certain health related outcomes.  Those included lower educational attainment, obesity, diabetes, smoking, sleep, level of high-density lipid cholesterol, earlier age of parenthood, risk for rheumatoid arthritis, earlier menopause, etc.  All of this further supports the conclusions that ADHD and its linkage to poor inhibition and low conscientiousness are important genetic background or second order factors that link to the first order factors involving health and lifestyle choices that are shortening the life expectancy in those with ADHD.

These findings should give impetus to efforts to try to educate those with ADHD and their families to such risks as well as to reduce those first order healthy choice factors that are predisposing to reduced life expectancy, such as obesity, smoking, excess alcohol use, poor diet, poor sleep, limited exercise, etc.  After all, estimated life expectancy is malleable – change the adverse health and lifestyle factors affecting it and one can improve quality of life as well as life expectancy.  Adding ADHD medications and evidence based psychosocial treatments to address the background traits predisposing those with ADHD to engage in these first order adverse health activities is also likely to be necessary and effective. 

Recent large-scale studies find that ADHD medications reduce many of the health and lifestyle risks noted above including those for accidental injuries, mortality, driving risks, antisocial activities, and drug use, among others.  These findings also argue for making primary care physicians more aware of the linkage between ADHD and reduced life expectancy as they are the ones most likely to be trying to improve the adverse health and lifestyle activities of individuals.  Yet they are not screening for the significant role that ADHD may be playing in the failures of their patients to do so.


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russell barkley

Dr. Barkley is a Clinical professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, USA. He has published more
than 27 books, rating scales, and clinical manuals and more than 300 scientific papers and book chapters on ADHD, and has presented more than 800 invited lectures in more than 30 countries. His latest books are Taking Charge of ADHD:
The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents
(4th ed., June 2020, Guilford press) and The 12 Principles for Raising and Child with ADHD (October 2020, Guilford
Press). His website is https://www.RussellBarkley.org.


Supporting Scientific Articles

  • Barbaresi, W. J., Colligan, R. C., Weaver, A. L., Voigt, R. G., Killian, J. M., Katusic, S. K. (2013). Mortality, ADHD, and psychosocial adversity in adults with childhood ADHD: A prospective study. Pediatrics, 131, 637-644.
  • Barkley, R. A. (2015c). Health problems and related impairments in children and adults with ADHD.   In R. A. Barkley (ed.) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment (4th Ed)(pp. 267-313).  New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Barkley, R. A. & Cox, D. J. (2007).  A review of driving risks and impairments associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the effects of stimulant medication on driving performance.  Journal of Safety Research, 38, 113-128.
  • Barkley, R. A. & Fischer, M.  (2019).  Hyperactive child syndrome and estimated life expectancy at young adult follow-up: The role of ADHD persistence and other potential predictors.  Journal of Attention Disorders, 23, 907-923.
  • Barkley, R. A., Murphy, K. R., & Fischer, M. (2008).  ADHD in adults: What the science says.  New York: Guilford Press.
  • Dalsgaard, S., Ostergaard, S. D., Leckman, J. F., Mortensen, P. B., & Pedersen, M. G. (2015).  Mortality in children, adolescents and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a nationwide cohort study.  Lancet, 385, 2190-2196.
  • Demontis, D.  et al. (2018).  Discovery of the first genome wide association significant risk loci for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.  Nature Genetics.  Epub ahead of print. doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0269-7
  • Jokela, M., Ferrie, J. E., & Kivimaki, M. (2008).  Childhood problem behaviors and death by midlife: The British National Child Development Study.  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 19-24.
  • London, A. S., & Landes, S. D.  (2016). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and adult mortality.  Preventive Medicine, 90, 8-10.
  • Mohr-Jensen, C., & Steinhausen, H. C. (2016). A meta-analysis and systematic review of the risks associated with childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder on long-term outcome of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations.  Clinical Psychology Review, 48, 32-42.
  • Nigg, J. T. (2013). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and adverse health outcomes.  Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 215-228.
  • Virtanen, M., Lallukka, T., Alexanderson, K., Ervasti, J., Josefsson, P., Kivimaki, M., & Mittendorfer-Rutz, E. (2018).  Work disability and mortality in early onset neuropsychiatric and behavioral disorders in Sweden.  European Journal of Public Health, 28, Supplement 4, p. 32.