ADHD and childhood trauma are both influential on a child’s mental health growing up, but a new study from the University of California – Berkeley shows the detriment that comes when these two factors combine. Researchers have determined that children with ADHD who are exposed to abuse or neglect are more at risk of developing eating disorders, inflicting self-harm, and attempting suicide than those who do not encounter traumas in their childhood. This is especially true for young women.
The Link Between Childhood Trauma And ADHD
The study from UC Berkeley did not set out to prove that trauma causes ADHD or vice versa. Instead, the researchers sought to look at children who face both conditions. The lead author of the study, Maya Guendelman, a Ph.D. student in psychology, said, “In the United States, we have a large contingent of kids being diagnosed with ADHD. At the same time, 10 to 20 percent of U.S. kids are abused or neglected. But we have a very limited understanding of the overlap between these two groups.”
Guendelman poses an interesting question: What if some symptoms of hyperactivity consistent with ADHD are misinterpreted in children who encounter neglect or abuse? Could their actions be the result of an underlying problem at home that is enhancing the effects of their ADHD?
To assess the impact of trauma and ADHD on childhood development, the researchers used data from the Berkeley Girls with ADHD Longitudinal Study. This study tracked the development of 140 different girls with ADHD from childhood to adulthood, starting in 1997. BGALS found that girls are more likely to internalize their ADHD symptoms than boys, resulting in an increased risk of self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, and other conditions.
Guendelman and her team took these results a step further and looked into how many women with ADHD reported incidents of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect in their childhood. They found that one in four women with ADHD were exposed to trauma in childhood, compared to one in nine in the non-ADHD control group. Guendelman said, “Our findings clearly support the contention that child or adolescent maltreatment specifically is an important risk factor for maladaptive functioning in young adulthood among women with childhood ADHD, particularly with respect to depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior.”
Improving A Child’s Quality Of Life With ADHD Therapy
No child should be exposed to trauma, but the study from UC Berkeley shows that children with ADHD may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of trauma than non-ADHD children. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you can work with a therapist to improve his or her condition as a whole. Contact Perspectives Of Troy today at (248) 244-8644 to speak with a counselor about your child’s options.