June 17, 2024

ADHD and Stigma

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a real medical condition with lots of scientific evidence supporting it. However, people with ADHD often face stigma, which can impact them and their families in many ways. This article explores the different types of stigma related to ADHD and their effects, with insights from two important research studies.

Types of ADHD Stigma

  1. Public Stigma: This comes from society's stereotypes and negative attitudes toward ADHD. People with ADHD might face discrimination because others don't understand the condition well.
  2. Self-Stigma: Sometimes, people with ADHD internalize these negative societal attitudes. They might feel guilty, embarrassed, or think they're flawed, leading to low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health issues.
  3. Label Avoidance: To avoid stigma, some people might not seek help or deny their symptoms, which can make their ADHD worse over time.
  4. Associative Stigma: Family members and friends of those with ADHD can also face stigma. They might be judged or excluded because of their connection to someone with ADHD.

Research on ADHD Stigma

A study in Germany looked at public attitudes toward ADHD. It found that about two-thirds of people believed ADHD symptoms exist on a spectrum, and half knew someone with similar issues. However, a quarter of the people surveyed felt annoyed by someone with ADHD. While most were okay with having an adult with ADHD as a colleague or neighbor, a quarter were against renting a room to them or giving them a job recommendation. Personal experience with ADHD was linked to more understanding and acceptance.

Another study reviewed various factors contributing to ADHD stigma. It found that uncertainty about the reliability of ADHD diagnoses, perceived dangerousness of people with ADHD, socio-demographic factors, skepticism toward ADHD medication, and whether someone disclosed their diagnosis all contributed to stigma. This stigma can negatively impact treatment adherence, effectiveness, and overall well-being of those with ADHD.

Effects of Stigma on Individuals and Families

Stigma can have serious consequences for people with ADHD and their families:

  • Children: Public stigma can lead to social isolation, academic problems, and bullying.
  • Adolescents and Adults: Self-stigma can prevent them from seeking help, worsening their symptoms and mental health.
  • Families: Associative stigma can lead to parents feeling judged or blamed, causing social isolation and guilt. They also face stress advocating for their child in school and healthcare settings.

Moving Forward

Stigma creates significant barriers to treatment and quality of life for those with ADHD and their families. It's crucial to address these negative attitudes by raising awareness, sharing accurate information, and offering support. Educating healthcare providers, teachers, employers, families, and the public about ADHD can help create a more accepting environment. This way, people with ADHD and their families can live fulfilling lives without the burden of stigma.

Speerforck S, Stolzenburg S, Hertel J, Grabe HJ, Strauß M, Carta MG, Angermeyer MC, Schomerus G. ADHD, stigma and continuum beliefs: A population survey on public attitudes towards children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatry Res. 2019 Dec;282:112570. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112570. Epub 2019 Sep 17. PMID: 31558401.

Mueller AK, Fuermaier AB, Koerts J, Tucha L. Stigma in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Atten Defic Hyperact Disord. 2012 Sep;4(3):101-14. doi: 10.1007/s12402-012-0085-3. Epub 2012 Jul 8. PMID: 22773377; PMCID: PMC3430836.

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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