Women With ADHD Might Also Be Suffering From Other Mental Disorders

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A study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto found a concerning presence of mental illness in women who had ADHD, suggesting a correlation between the conditions. Published in Child: Care, Health and Development, the study found that of the 3,908 Canadian women aged 20 to 39 surveyed, instances of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts were much more common for the 107 women who also had ADHD as opposed to those without it.

“The prevalence of mental illness among women with ADHD was disturbingly high,” said Esme Fuller-Thomson, one of the authors of the study and Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “With 46% having seriously considered suicide, 36% having generalized anxiety disorder, 31% having major depressive disorder and 39% having substance abuse problems at some point in their life.”

According to Fuller-Thomson, these rates are more than four times the odds of suicidal thoughts and generalized anxiety disorders in women without ADHD, and more that double the odds of major depressive disorder and substance abuse.

Another surprising finding? Women with ADHD were also much more likely to report physical problems, such as disabling pain or insomnia.

“Unfortunately, our study does not provide insight into why women with ADHD are so vulnerable,” Fuller-Thomson admits, although she guesses that mental health problems could be contributing to these stresses, or vice versa.

What’s important is that the study has prompted further research on women and ADHD, something that previously was considered a boys’ disorder. These findings suggest that health care providers should provide equal support and care of their patients, regardless of gender.