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Girls With ADHD More At Risk For Other Severe Mental Disorders

First Posted: Oct 06, 2016 05:10 AM EDT
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An ADHD diagnosis puts girls at much higher risk for other mental health problems, according to a UCLA study. (Image used for representation only.)
(Photo : Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A UCLA study has recently revealed that young girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more at risk of having multiple mental disorders. These mental conditions may often lead to several problems in adulthood such as abusive relationships, teenage pregnancies, poor grades and drug abuse.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, most commonly known as ADHD, is commonly diagnosed in children between the ages 6 and 12 years old. The condition is marked by problems paying attention, difficulty moderating behavior, and excessive activity. According to the World Health Organization, there are roughly 39 million people living with the condition in 2013.

Symptoms of ADHD include being easily distracted, fidgeting, being unable to complete a single task and being easily bored. Indian Express reported that the disorder happens in about 5 percent to 10 percent of children in the United States, and figures in many other industrialized countries with compulsory education are comparable, Lee said. ADHD can begin in pre-school kids and can persist into high school and into adulthood, especially when it's accompanied by oppositional conduct disorder. Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by angry, hostile, irritable, defiant behavior.

"We knew the girls with ADHD would have more problems than the girls without ADHD, but we were surprised that conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder were at the top of the list, not depression or anxiety," UCLA associate professor Steve Lee said in a press release. "These conduct disorders, more than anxiety and depression, predict severe adult impairments, such as risky sexual behavior, abusive relationships, drug abuse and crime."

UCLA researchers explained that girls diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to develop more serious ailments. The study's authors say the data revealed surprising implications. According to UPI, researchers found about 38 percent of girls with ADHD had the criteria to rule out an anxiety disorder compared to only 13.9 percent of girls without ADHD.

It was also found out that 10.3 percent of girls with ADHD were diagnosed with depression, but only 2.9 percent were diagnosed that did not have ADHD. The researchers also reported that 42 percent of girls with ADHD were diagnosed with an oppositional defiant disorder, but only 5 percent of girls without ADHD were diagnosed with the condition.

Meanwhile, newsroom.ucla.edu reported that for the study, the psychologists studied 18 types of research of 1,997 girls with about 40 percent (796) of whom were diagnosed with ADHD. Most of the girls in the study were aged between 8 and 13. Researchers said that that most ADHD studies were focused on boys, or compare boys with ADHD to girls with the same condition but never with girls not diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD is often harder to detect in girls than in boys because girls with the disorder may appear disengaged, forgetful or disorganized, and perceived as "spacey" and stay "under the radar" without being referred for assessment and treatment, said lead author Irene Tung.

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