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ADHD into Adulthood Raises Risk for Health Problems

< Dec. 12, 2012 > -- Trouble concentrating, constantly moving, often interrupting others-these are some of the common signs of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This condition may affect more than 7 percent of school-aged children. For those who suffer from ADHD into adulthood, a new study finds they may be at a higher risk for physical and mental health problems.

ADHD affects overall health

Over a 30-year period beginning in 1975, researchers at New York University School of Medicine followed 551 children in upstate New York. Seventy-two of them were diagnosed with ADHD when they were ages 14 to 16. During the study, participants periodically answered surveys about their overall health. Questions covered a wide range of physical and mental health topics, including frequency of sickness, level of stress, and amount of anxiety about finances.

The researchers found that those with ADHD were 82 percent more likely to have health problems. They also had double the risk for mental health issues. They were more prone to work and financial troubles, too.

"When children who had ADHD in adolescence became adults with ADHD, they had a higher probability of depressive mood and anxiety," says study author Judith Brook, Ed.D. "They were much more likely to have antisocial personality disorder. They also had difficulty in terms of work and experienced a great deal of financial stress."

A brighter future is possible

It isn't quite clear why those with ADHD in the study tended to have more physical and mental health problems if they still had the disorder as adults. But researchers believe the future is brighter for those diagnosed with ADHD today. That's because more treatment options are now available. The condition is also better understood and more accepted.

Many children diagnosed with ADHD overcome the condition before adulthood. Parents who suspect their child may have ADHD should talk with their child's doctor right away. An earlier diagnosis can help a child better manage the disorder.

Dr. Brook also adds that parents should support their child's strengths. "Try to pick areas where the child can succeed," she says. "When he or she has some success, it can help offset other areas, and the child will be more likely to be accepted by peers and less likely to feel depressed or anxious."

The study was published online this week in the journal Pediatrics.

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3 Tips for Rewarding Relationships with ADHD

In a relationship, you need to be attentive, careful, and thoughtful. But when you have ADHD, you're often inattentive, forgetful, and impulsive. Follow these solutions to help you connect with others effectively:

The problem: You forget to be somewhere. You miss a date or go to the wrong location.

Relationship Rx: When making plans with friends or your significant other, always confirm what you heard. Inattention can cause you to miss pieces of information. Say, "We're going to meet Thursday at the bistro on the corner at 7 p.m. Did I get it right?" Set your cell phone to alert you.

The problem: You have a difficult time enjoying leisure activities like others do. People without ADHD may find this frustrating.

Relationship Rx: Hyperactivity makes it hard for you to sit still. As a result, going to movies or concerts may not be right for you. Get creative. Map out hikes or bike rides and pack a picnic. Cook a meal at home together. The important thing is that you share an experience that you both enjoy.

The problem: During an argument, you make hurtful remarks.

Relationship Rx: Impulsiveness causes you to speak before you think. Whether arguing with a family member or spouse, ask if you can have a few moments. Write down what you want to say. This helps you think first and talk second. Stick to the list so you don't accidentally hurt the other person's feelings.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Family Physicians - Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

CDC - Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

National Institute of Mental Health - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder