Recently released findings in Pediatrics showed roughly 29 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD carried the symptoms into adulthood.
“It just confirms what we’ve always known, and that is when you are diagnosed with ADHD there continues to be some kind of an intrusion of those symptoms into adult life,” Cleveland Clinic Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health Head Dr. Mike Manos told us. “It’s a well-done, well-controlled and well-documented study. Essentially what it’s saying is if you’re ADHD there’s a higher probability you’re going to encounter some kind of big problem later in life.”
Dr. William Barbaresi is the study lead author. He began his research at the Mayo Clinic before relocating to Boston Children’s Hospital. The study subjects were born between 1976 and 1982. The research covered more than 5,700 children, 367 of which were diagnosed with ADHD. Members of the same subject group – upon reaching the age of 29 – were asked to take part of a reevaluation study. In total, 232 ADHD patients agreed. The results showed 68 subjects were still suffering from ADHD.
The study also revealed that 58 percent of those participating in the reevaluation currently not diagnosed as being ADHD were likely to suffer from at least one psychiatric condition. The list ranged from depression and anxiety to chemical or substance abuse. Furthermore, three of the original 367 children diagnosed with ADHD had committed suicide.
“The things they look at are total number of deaths – medically-related problems, suicide, homicide, accidents,” Dr. Manos said. “Those kind of things continue to be problems for individuals with ADHD. That’s the important thing. We do have to take ADHD seriously, in other words.”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists symptoms of ADHD as having trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors. The CDC reported 12 percent of boys in the United States, ages 3 to 17, are diagnosed with ADHD versus 4.7 percent of girls from the same age group.
In looking over the results, Dr. Manos said he’s most intrigued by those who are no longer diagnosed with ADHD. He said the data provokes new questions.
“The interesting thing is about 70 percent of individuals don’t show consistent morbidity in adulthood associated with ADHD,” he said. “It may be possible actually to find out what these individuals are doing that makes symptoms not so consistently intrusive. Is it possible that some people are doing something that allows them to have less intrusive symptoms? What is occurring that allows some people not to show the morbidity in adulthood that is often present in childhood?”
Manos added the overall meaning behind the research is that perhaps more studies need to be undertaken to explore whether ADHD sufferers as children were able to adapt to the condition in adulthood.
“If the symptoms don’t go away, how do you discover how to live with them and perhaps even have them work for you?” Manos said. “That’s the real issue. From my own perspective, I think it’s an adaptability approach. That is, teaching adults to be adaptable given that they have symptoms could be extremely helpful. So medicine works, of course, but pills don’t teach skills. Adults can often use a set of skills that allow them to adapt more easily to these situations. Many adults figure it out by themselves but what if we actively had really good treatment programs?
“For example, are there certain kinds of psychotherapy that could be more useful to adults? Does coaching need to be more available with adults with ADHD? Should we be treating adults more consistently and with much more monitoring with pharmacol therapy? These are all open questions.”