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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a prevalent neurodevelopmental condition affecting around 5% of minors worldwide, often persists into adulthood in about two-thirds of cases. Researchers from the University of Augsburg reveal that ADHD independently poses a risk for severe mental health problems such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, and suicidal behavior.

Individuals with ADHD at risk of mental health issues

Experts emphasize the importance for individuals identified with ADHD to be cognizant of their heightened risk profile to prevent potential complications in the future. ADHD is defined by difficulties in focus, elevated energy levels, and impulsiveness. Its prevalence is notably high in the United States, with more than six million children having received a diagnosis for this condition.

This research provides fresh perspectives on the connections among psychiatric conditions. Consequently, in the clinical setting, it is advisable to observe individuals with ADHD for the psychiatric disorders outlined in this investigation, and if deemed essential, proactive measures should be implemented.

The study utilized Mendelian randomization to investigate the causal relationship between ADHD and seven common mental health conditions, including clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, PTSD, suicide attempts, and anorexia nervosa. While previous observational studies had linked ADHD to various mood and anxiety disorders, this research aimed to provide genetic evidence supporting a specific impact of ADHD on these mental health conditions.

ADHD associated with heightened risk of anorexia

Researchers employed a technique to explore potential connections between ADHD and seven disorders, examining if disorders linked to ADHD contribute to observed effects. Pooling data, they found no causal link with anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. However, evidence suggested a causal link with a heightened risk of anorexia nervosa and bidirectional causation with major clinical depression. Adjusting for major depression, researchers found a direct link between ADHD and heightened risks of attempted suicide (30%) and PTSD (18%).

While Mendelian randomization minimizes biases compared to observational studies, caution is urged due to the complexity of genetic associations and limitations like focusing on individuals of European ancestry. Despite these caveats, the study suggests a need for increased proactive measures in treating ADHD patients.