ADHD plus childhood trauma heightens risk for self-harm, suicide

Posted on March 4, 2015

Young women with ADHD who have been exposed to abuse, neglect or other traumas in childhood and adolescence are at greater risk for self-injury, eating disorders and suicide than those with ADHD who were not mistreated in early youth, according to new research from UC Berkeley.

The findings, just reported in the journal Development and Psychopathology, add to a growing body of evidence that environmental factors, including maltreatment in childhood, can have a significant bearing on the negative psychosocial outcomes of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"While ADHD is clearly a heritable and biologically based disorder, and can be treated with medications, it is very important for clinicians and treatment providers to pay close attention to the trauma experiences of individuals, particularly women, with ADHD," said Maya Guendelman, a Ph.D. student in psychology at UC Berkeley, and lead author of the study.

The results also raise the question of whether children with ADHD are more vulnerable to maltreatment due to family stress. A neurodevelopmental disorder, ADHD is estimated to afflict at least 6 million children and teenagers in the United States and is characterized by poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and other behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age.

"In the United States, we have a large contingent of kids being diagnosed with ADHD. At the same time, 10 to 20 percent of U.S. kids are abused or neglected. But we have very limited understanding of the overlap between these two groups," Guendelman said.

To investigate the relationship between ADHD and childhood maltreatment, Guendelman and fellow researchers compared data from the Berkeley Girls with ADHD Longitudinal Study (BGALS), which has tracked more than 140 girls with ADHD from childhood to adulthood since 1997.

"Our findings clearly support the contention that child or adolescent maltreatment specifically is an important risk factor for maladaptive functioning in young adulthood among women with childhood ADHD, particularly with respect to depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior," Guendelman said.

"This is not to say that all ADHD is due to social adversity rather than biological factors," she added. "Rather, it suggests that we must consider the contribution of factors such as severe social stress and trauma in our understanding of how children with ADHD develop."


Category(s):Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Child Development, Suicide Prevention

Source material from University of Berkley


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