According to a study published online in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, girls are considerably more likely to attempt suicide or injure themselves as young adults if they have attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The researchers found that young women diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, particularly the type with early signs of impulsivity, were 3-4 times more likely to attempt taking their life or injure themselves than young women without childhood diagnosis of ADHD.

Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, explained:

“ADHD can signal future psychological problems for girls as they are entering adulthood. Our findings reinforce the idea that ADHD in girls is particularly severe and can have serious public health implications.”

In the first part of the study, the team evaluated 228 girls between the ages of 6 to 12 in the San Francisco Bay area. After undergoing extensive diagnostic evaluations, 140 of the girls were diagnosed with ADHD, whole the rest of the girls severed as a control group.

Of the 140 participant diagnosed with ADHD, 47 were diagnosed with ADHD-inattentive, a subtype of ADHD that means the girls are not as likely to act out and can sit quietly but have a heard time paying attention; and 93 participants were diagnosed with ADHD-combined, a combination of hyperactive, impulsive and inattentive symptoms.

Study participants were followed up at year 5 and at year 10 with a full day of clinical assessments for each participant. 95% of the participants were retained at the 10-year follow-up, when the girls were aged between 17-24 years old.

The researchers questioned each participant and their families about life problems, including depressive symptoms, self-injury, substance use, and suicide attempts. The team also tested the young women for academic achievement and neuropsychological functioning.

The team found that 22% of the participants diagnosed with ADHD-combined attempted suicide at least one time, vs. 8% of those with ADHD-inattentive and 6% of the control group.

Furthermore, 51% of those in the ADHD-combined group reported scratching, cutting themselves, burning or hitting themselves, vs. 29% in the ADHD-inattentive group and 19% in the control group.

Across the groups, the team found no considerable differences in substance abuse, but found that those with ADHD as children were more likely to continue to ave symptoms of ADHD, more psychiatric problems as well as greater use of psychological services.

Hinshaw, said:

“ADHD in girls and women carries a particularly high risk of internalizing, even self-harmful behavior patterns. We know that girls with ADHD-combined are more likely to be impulsive and have less control over their actions, which could help explain these distressing findings.”

Written by Grace Rattue