Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

People with ADHD at greater risk of certain mental health issues

Healthcare professionals should ensure their patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are offered psychological support, researchers say, after a study found people with ADHD are at increased risk of some serious mental health issues.

A study, published in BMJ Mental Health, found that people with the hyperactivity disorder are at increased risk of major depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia nervosa and suicidal ideation.

The authors of the study say the research opens “new insights into the paths between psychiatric disorders”.

“In clinical practice, patients with ADHD should be monitored for the psychiatric disorders included in this study and preventive measures should be initiated if necessary,” they write.

ADHD linked to major depression, PTSD, anorexia nervosa and suicidal ideation

The study was prompted by a lack of evidence causally associating ADHD with other mental ill health.

The researchers therefore used Mendelian randomisation, a technique that uses genetic variants as proxies for a particular risk factor — in this case ADHD — to obtain genetic evidence in support of a particular outcome; in this study, seven common mental health issues.

These were: major clinical depression; bipolar disorder; anxiety disorder; schizophrenia; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anorexia nervosa; and at least one suicide attempt.

While there was no causal link found between ADHD and bipolar disorder, anxiety, or schizophrenia, there was evidence of a link between ADHD and anorexia nervosa, and ADHD and major clinical depression.

After adjusting for the influence of major depression, a direct causal association was also drawn between ADHD and suicide attempts, and ADHD and PTSD.

Clinicians must be more proactive when treating people with ADHD

The authors highlight various limitations to the study, including that the same gene may be associated with different traits, making it difficult to pinpoint the relevant causal effect, and the fact that only people of European ancestry were included so the findings might not apply to other ethnicities.

Nevertheless, the researchers conclude that their findings should encourage clinicians to be more proactive when treating people with ADHD.

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