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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A link between ADHD and trauma

A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that children who have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to experience more adverse life events than those children without ADHD. The researchers involved in the study analysed data from the National Survey of Children's Health in the United States. They found: 

  • 17% of children with ADHD experienced 4 or more adverse events compared to 6% of children without ADHD. 
  • These children with 4 or more adverse events were more likely to be using medication to treat the ADHD. 
  • The parents of these children with ADHD and 4 or more adverse events were more likely to rate their child's ADHD as moderate to severe. 
The adversities that were measured as part of the study included divorce; death of a parent or guardian; discrimination; domestic violence; mental health difficulties in the family; incarceration of a family member; neighbourhood violence; living in poverty; and substance abuse in the family. 

The results of this study are interesting for many reasons, especially given the ongoing public concern that there is an over diagnosis of ADHD in the community. 

Many of the symptoms that a child displays when they have been negatively impacted by an adverse or potentially traumatic event, are very similar to symptoms that children who are diagnosed with ADHD present with. These include symptoms such as difficulties in concentration and attention, difficulties in organisation, difficulties in relating to others and difficulties in behaviour. 

The study highlights the need that those working with children and young people need to be trauma aware and trauma informed. Unfortunately, there are some cases where children do get misdiagnosed and treating a child for ADHD when they are presenting with behaviours and symptoms of trauma is not meeting the needs of the child. 

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