Researchers have made a concerning discovery while examining the links between attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other psychiatric disorders.
ADHD is a condition where people often struggle with paying attention, being hyperactive, and acting impulsively. Even though we know it can stick with an individual throughout their life, the origins of ADHD are not fully understood. While genetics play a huge role, responsible for 70-80% of cases, it's also influenced by prenatal, perinatal, and childhood environmental factors.
But whether ADHD directly causes other mental health problems has been a mystery – until now.
University of Augsburg, Germany, scientists set out to untangle this web of connections between ADHD and seven other mental health disorders. Using a powerful method called "two-sample network Mendelian randomization analysis," the researchers dug into genetic datasets. This unique analysis allows researchers using observational data to go beyond correlation and test causal hypotheses.
Previous Mendelian randomization research published this year showed that ADHD increased one's likelihood of a person smoking, having major depression, and even making a lower average income. For better or for worse, the same study found ADHD individuals had more sexual partners throughout their lives.
The latest research published in BMJ Mental Health found a significant impact of ADHD on disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, and anorexia nervosa. It appears that ADHD and major depressive disorder (MDD) mutually increase the odds of developing one another. This back-and-forth relationship hints that common neurological machinery is affected by both conditions.
Thankfully, ADHD's relationship with mental health isn't the same across the board. Anxiety, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia were not shown to follow those with ADHD at increased rates.
This study is a wake-up call for doctors and patients alike, suggesting that an ADHD diagnosis puts one at a higher risk for other mental health conditions. So, when doctors diagnose and treat ADHD, they should consider, monitor, and take steps to prevent these other conditions from developing.
These crucial insights enhance our understanding of the complex relationship between ADHD and prevalent psychiatric disorders. As we keep exploring the complex mix of genes and life experiences, we're getting closer to better treatments and support for people with ADHD and other mental health struggles.