October 19, 2021

ADHD symptoms and suicidal ideation in college

The mechanisms underlying the association between ADHD symptoms and suicidal ideation are poorly understood. A team of researchers from France and Montreal set out to explore this relationship with 2,331 French college students.

The students were participants in the internet-based student Health Research Enterprise project, a prospective population-based cohort study of students in higher education institutions in France. The i-Share study includes a longitudinal collection of data on childhood and family history, lifestyle, health information, and psychosocial examinations during the college years and beyond. 15,528 participants were included in the initial cohort, of which 2,331 completed all the questionnaires and did not have any missing data at the one-year follow-up. The mean age was 21, and four out of five were women. ADHD symptoms were assessed at the initiation of the study. Suicidal ideation was evaluated through a questionnaire completed a year later. Before that, three months after initiation, participants filled out a mental health survey that inquired about two potential mediators of suicidal ideation: depressive symptoms and self-esteem.

After adjusting for potential confounding factors (e.g., sex, childhood adversity, living conditions, and substance use) and taking into account the role of the mediators, the effect of ADHD symptoms on suicidal ideation (i.e., the direct effect) was no longer statistically significant, whereas pathways through depressive symptoms and self-esteem were both statistically significant. The pathway through depressive symptoms accounted for 25% of the total effect, while the pathway through self-esteem accounted for 64% of the total effect. Most of this indirect effect of self-esteem was in turn explained by the unique effect of self-esteem (not explained by depression), which accounted for 45% of the association, whereas a smaller part was explained by the effect of self-esteem through depression (accounting for 19% of the total effect). Ultimately, both mediators had the same effect (45% vs. 44%). Patterns were similar for males and females.

The authors caution that the study sample was not representative of the population of college students. It relied on volunteers, females were overrepresented, and the dropout ratio was very high. Participants in the final sample were more satisfied with their financial resources during their college years and during childhood, and less frequently consumed tobacco, than those in the initial cohort. The researchers recommend that ADHD patients be screened for self-esteem, and point out that other studies have indicated that exercise, Internet support groups, and interpersonal group therapy can build self-esteem in young people.

Julie Arsandaux, Massimiliano Orri, Marie Tournier, Antoine Gbessemehlan, Sylvana Coté, Réda Salamon, Christophe Tzourio, and Cédric Galéra, "Pathways From ADHD Symptoms to Suicidal Ideation During College Years: A Longitudinal Study on the i-ShareCohort," Journal of Attention Disorders (2020), https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054720915246.

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024