One in four adults with ADHD has generalized anxiety disorder

A new nationally representative study published online in the Affective Disorders Journal found that one in four adults aged 20 to 39 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

People with ADHD were four times more likely to have GAD at some point in their lives, compared to those without ADHD. Even after controlling for other relevant factors, including socio-demographic factors, adverse childhood experiences, and a history of life-long substance use disorders and major depressive disorders, people with ADHD still had more than double the risk of TAG.

These results highlight just how vulnerable adults with ADHD are to generalized anxiety disorders. There are many studies linking ADHD in adults with depression and suicidal tendencies, but less attention has been paid to generalized activity disturbances and other adverse effects throughout life. “

Esme Fuller-Thomson, Principal Author, Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto and Director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging

The study identified several factors associated with GAD in people with ADHD. Women surveyed with ADHD had an almost five-fold higher risk of GAD, even after controlling for other covariates.

“ADHD has been severely underdiagnosed and undertreated in girls and women,” says co-author Andie MacNeil, a recent Masters of Social Work (MSW) graduate from the University of Toronto. “These results suggest that women with ADHD may also be more likely to experience anxiety, underscoring the need for greater support for women with ADHD.”

Adults who had adverse childhood experiences such as childhood sexual or physical abuse or chronic family violence in parents were three times more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder. Sixty percent of people with ADHD who suffered from anxiety disorders had had at least one of these adverse childhood experiences.

Other factors associated with GAD in adults with ADHD include earning less than $ 40,000, having less close relationships, and having a history of major depressive disorder. The odds of GAD in people with ADHD were six times higher for those with a history of major depressive disorder during their lifetime.

“These findings underscore the importance of screening for mental illness and treating depressive symptoms when supporting people with ADHD,” said Lauren Carrique, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s MSW program and social worker at the University of Toronto. Toronto General Hospital. “People with ADHD, GAD and depression are a particularly vulnerable subgroup that may require targeted awareness from healthcare professionals. “

Investigators examined a nationally representative sample of 6,898 Mental Health Canadian Community Health Survey respondents aged 20 to 39, of whom 272 had ADHD and 682 had GAD.

Unfortunately, researchers did not have access to information about the treatments, if any, that respondents with ADHD were receiving to treat their anxiety. A particularly promising speech-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, has been shown to be very effective in improving symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

“It is crucial that people with ADHD who have mental health issues seek help from their family doctor or other mental health professional, including social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Effective treatments, such as CBT, are available and can improve dramatically. its quality of life, ”said Fuller-Thomson.


Journal reference:

Fuller-Thomson, E., et al. (2021) Generalized anxiety disorder in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders.

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