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Study: Adult ADHD and Depression, Anxiety Strongly Linked

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February 4, 2023ADHD is a stronger predictor of depression and anxiety in adults than is autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study that suggests patients with attention deficit hyperactive disorder are more likely that autistic patients to experience “internalizing problems” like mood disorder.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Bath and published in Scientific Reports, underscores the importance of screening for comorbid conditions in adults with ADHD.

1As many as 80% of adults with ADHD have at least one co-existing psychiatric disorder.2 According to a recent ADDitude survey of 1,500 readers, anxiety and depression are the two most common comorbid conditions diagnosed alongside ADHD in adults, with co-diagnosis rates of 72% and 70%, respectively.Despite this high rate of comorbidity, researchers said, “ASD has often been prioritized over ADHD in both research on internalizing problems and clinical practice, particularly for anxiety.”3Notably, approximately 28% of autistic individuals have ADHD, making it difficult to determine which disorder — ASD or ADHD — more significantly impacts mental health outcomes.2 (The ADDitude reader survey found that 9% of adults with ADHD have ASD.)Researchers aimed to clarify the associations between self-reported ASD traits and ADHD traits with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression using a general population sample, which included 504 adults from the U.K. (49% male, 51% female) aged 18–79 years.While the results linked both ASD and ADHD with anxiety and depression, ADHD was a stronger statistical predictor of both mental-health conditions than was ASD.

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