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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) along with childhood trauma, abuse or neglect could be a deadly combination, according to a new finding published in Development and Psychopathology by University of California, Berkeley. Young girls with ADHD having a history of trauma or maltreatment in their early years are prone to self-harm, suicide attempt, substance abuse and/or eating disorder.

The lead author of the study, Maya Guendelman, said although ADHD was primarily a genetic disorder in Autism category. However, various researches indicated that negative environmental factors often worsen the condition of ADHD patients. Caregivers and doctors must take into consideration the traumatic experiences of ADHD patients, particularly women, for a timely and effective treatment.

less obvious adhd symptoms in girls

Some less obvious ADHD symptoms in girls

Girls with autism symptoms like ADHD, unlike boys, suffer in a covert fashion and tend to internalize the problem they face as they grow up. This method of coping may lead to depression and other disorders, added Guendelman.

To understand the link between ADHD and childhood abuse, the researchers analyzed data collected by Berkeley’s Girls with ADHD Longitudinal Study or BGALS. This study gathered data from as many as 140 girls with ADHD since 1997. The study tracked the girls from their childhood to adult life.

They compared the BGALS data with two other data sets, one with ADHD patients devoid of childhood trauma and another consisting of people without ADHD. They first searched for those women who faced childhood trauma, such as torture, sexual abuse or neglect, in the BGALS list.

Issues with ADHD in children

Issues that Girls with ADHD face on a day to day basis

There was at least one in every four women who reported incidences of childhood trauma. This number was considerably higher than those who reported childhood trauma in the other two groups. The study also finds out that the girls who faced abuse were more prone to self-destructive actions.

The growing number of ADHD cases calls for a need for accurate diagnosis of ADHD. The new finding would help healthcare providers to look for trauma and social stress as contributing factors to worsening condition of ADHD patients said Guendelman. Around 6 million children and young adults are suffering from ADHD in the United States alone. According to official data, the ADHD prevalence has increased from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11% in 2011.

Stephen Hinshaw, Psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said the research adds to the growing understanding of ADHD and the significance of social and environmental factors on the disorder.

For more information, please refer to the Press Release from UC Berkeley.

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