A research team led by Esme Fuller-Thomson at the University of Toronto has found that women who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to struggle with debilitating mental disorders that could lead to an increased risk of suicide. Healthcare providers may need to heed warning signs of psychological disturbance more carefully with new data from the research team.
Prevalence of Mental Disorders in Women with ADHD
Fuller-Thomson and her team took a sample of 3,908 Canadian women between the ages of 20 and 39, 107 of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD. Within the sample of women with ADHD, they found that 46% of the women had seriously contemplated suicide. 31% of the 107 women with ADHD had some kind of major depressive disorder, 36% had a mental disorder associated with generalized anxiety, and 39% had dealt with a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives.
The women didn't just suffer from mental disorders, either. 28% of the women reported debilitating physical pain when attempting to perform certain activities, a number significantly higher than the 9% of women who reported pain without ADHD. Insomnia saw an increase of almost 30% in the ADHD diagnosed sample when compared to the 12.2% of non-ADHD women in the sample.
Women with ADHD also seemed to have more problems financially. 37% of them admitted that their household income was not enough to meet basic needs such as food, rent or mortgage, and clothing. The team believes that the psychological stress associated with the inability to focus could cause these women to have trouble gaining career success that allows them to handle financial responsibility. It may also interfere with the ability to make sound decisions concerning money.
How Are Mental Disorders and ADHD Related?
ADHD Co-occurring Conditions
The study did not explore how the two conditions are related to one another, but the research team is hopeful that simply establishing a link will lead to further study into whether or not ADHD leads to mental disorders or whether the existence of a mental disorder can turn into ADHD.
Clinically, it seems that stress triggers depression regularly in adults. Similarly, dealing with the stressors of ADHD, such as frustration with work life or social hang-ups, could bring stress levels high enough in everyday life to illicit a depressive response. A state of depression may lead to increases in behaviors that have a negative effect on health, such as smoking or substance abuse. These behaviors lead to addiction and dependence, which can turn into another source of mental anxiety.
Still, there have been no direct studies on the exact cause of the relation of ADHD to mental disorders. For now, physicians should examine patients for suicide risk whenever possible to help prevent depressive conditions linked to ADHD from resulting in suicide.