Adult-Onset ADHD Raises Questions.

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Author: Chris Aiken
Date: Mar. 2021
From: Psychiatric Times(Vol. 38, Issue 3)
Publisher: Intellisphere, LLC
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,147 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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Four recent studies may have turned what we know about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on its head. By following large cohorts from early childhood to adulthood, they claim to have discovered that ADHD can start in adults who did not have the disorder before the DSM-5 cutoff of 12 years. However, before we rewrite the DSM and start prescribing stimulants to every adult who cannot concentrate, it is important to take a closer look at this research.

In 3 of the 4 papers, the adult-onset ADHD actually began in the teenage years. (1-3) Furthermore, many of these teenaged-onset cases (29% to 75%) had symptoms of ADHD in their childhood that were either below the threshold for the full diagnosis or were classified as part of a related disorder (eg, conduct disorder or oppositional-defiant disorder).

The fourth paper claimed to identify new-onset ADHD in middle-aged adults, and it made the biggest headlines. (4) The study followed a group of more than 1000 residents of New Zealand from aged 3 to 38 years as part of a larger investigation on the effects of adverse birth experiences on health. Researchers gathered symptoms of ADHD at 3 time points: ages 5 to 7; 11 to 15; and finally at age 38. What they discovered surprised them. Most of the children with ADHD no longer had the full disorder as adults, and most of the adults who met criteria for ADHD in middle age did not have the full disorder in childhood. The problem with this surprise discovery is that they did not ask the participants when their ADHD symptoms began, so these may have been teenaged-onset cases like we saw in the other 3 studies.

Comorbid Confounders and Other Confusions


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Gale Document Number: GALE|A676445537