Adults with ADHD at higher risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder: Study

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Adults grappling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are four times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a new study has found.

A study conducted by researchers from Canada’s University of Toronto found that one in four adults under the age of 40 living with ADHD suffered from some form of anxiety.

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“These findings underline how vulnerable adults with ADHD are to generalized anxiety disorders,” Esme Fuller-Thomson, lead study author and professor at Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said in a statement.

“There are many studies linking adult ADHD to depression and suicidality, but less attention has been paid to generalized anxiety disorders and other adverse outcomes across the life course.”

The researchers found that adults with ADHD were twice as likely to have anxiety despite considering a variety of factors that could have had an influence on their mental health such as childhood experiences, substance abuse and socio-demographics, among others.

Adult women at higher risk of suffering from anxiety

The researchers identified an array of factors that were associated with GAD among those who had ADHD and found that female respondents who took part in the study had nearly five times higher odds of GAD.

“ADHD has been severely underdiagnosed and undertreated in girls and women,” said coauthor Andie MacNeil, a recent Master of Social Work (MSW) graduate from the University of Toronto.

“These finds suggest that women with ADHD may also be more susceptible to experiencing anxiety, emphasizing the need for greater support for women with ADHD,” MacNeil added.

Adverse childhood experiences contribute to GAD

Adults who had gone through negative experiences in their childhood such as sexual or physical abuse or assault or domestic violence were found to be three times more likely to have GAD.

Sixty percent of those grappling with ADHD who had anxiety disorders experienced at least one of these adverse childhood experiences, the study found.

Having fewer closer relationships, an income below $40,000 a year and a history of major depressive disorders are also considered to be factors associated with GAD among adults with ADHD.

“These results highlight the importance of screening for mental illness and addressing depressive symptoms when providing support to those with ADHD,” said Lauren Carrique, a recent graduate of University of Toronto’s MSW program and a social worker at Toronto General Hospital.

“Individuals experiencing ADHD, GAD, and depression are a particularly vulnerable subgroup that may need targeted outreach by health professionals,” she suggested.

“It is crucial that those with ADHD who are struggling with mental health issues reach out for help from their family doctor or other mental health professional including social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Effective treatments, such as CBT, are available and these can dramatically improve one’s quality of life,” said Fuller-Thomson.

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