Tag Archives: adhd

People with ADHD are more likely to be hoarders

The living room of a compulsive hoarder. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Living with too much stuff inside a cramped apartment sounds like a staple of modern life, but some people do take it too far. Acquiring an excessive number of items and storing them in a chaotic way has a name: hoarding. It’s even recognized as a clinical mental health disorder and is generally associated with negative outcomes in terms of quality of life. But mental health disorders rarely occur in a complete vacuum and are often associated with other disorders. So it might not be surprising to learn that people diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also more likely to be hoarders, according to a new study.

Pay attention to the clutter around you

Hoarding, a mental health condition that was formally recognized fairly recently, in 2013, when it was added to the DSM-5 (the American Psychiatric Association’s primary handbook for diagnosing mental health conditions), involves the compulsive need to keep objects, many of which can be described as mere trinkets or even trash such as old newspapers. Sometimes, the hoarding of animals is involved. In the hoarder’s mind, one question comes up again and again whenever encountering an object: What if I need it one day? But that rarely if ever happens. Instead, the hoarder’s home is turned into an unlivable warehouse, with barely enough room to move but always enough to spare for the next shiny thing.

Hoarders experience a great deal of anxiety when attempting to discard items and find it difficult to organize their possessions, which explains why some of their homes look like a claustrophobic tangled mess. This behavior can have serious deleterious effects for both the hoarder and their family members, including emotional distress, social isolation, financial problems, and even legal consequences — all depending upon the severity of the condition.

That’s because, just like many other psychiatric conditions, clinical hoarding is on a spectrum. Indeed, hoarding-like behavior is common among many healthy, well-adjusted individuals. And who here can say with a straight face they’ve never impulsively bought useless crap that is now just gathering dust somewhere in the house. We’re talking about extremes, though. At level 1, although the home is visibly cluttered, the doors, windows, and stairs are still accessible. By level 5, the most severe hoarding level, the degree of clutter is extreme, blocking virtually all living quarters. Rotting food, excessive bugs, and poor animal sanitation often infest such homes, raising serious health concerns for people and their pets.

Hoarding disorder is formerly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but researchers at Anglia Ruskin University were curious to see if there was any connection with ADHD too. In the first leg of their study, the researchers asked patients from an adult ADHD clinic in the UK to fill in a series of questionnaires designed to gauge various traits and behaviors, including hoarding. A control group of similar age, gender, and education, which involved people not diagnosed with ADHD, had to answer the same questions.

This preliminary study found that about 20% of the ADHD participants reported significant hoarding symptoms compared to just 2% in the control group, which is close to the previously reported 2.5% prevalence of hoarding disorder in the general population. The patients with the most severe hoarding symptoms were also likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

This is the first study that found an association between ADHD and hoarding disorder, so further research is warranted. This is also important from a therapy standpoint since hoarding disorder is very challenging to address, particularly because people with this condition are rarely aware they have a problem. Hoarders rarely recognize or accept that they may be suffering from a mental condition, or simply downplay it.

For instance, one significant aspect of this study is that the average age of the participants with ADHD and hoarding disorder was 30, with both genders equally represented. This challenges the popular imagery of an elderly female surrounded by a mountain of clutter and a dozen cats. Future interventions may be designed to address both ADHD and hoarding disorders in younger individuals before their effects precipitate as the patient ages.

The findings were reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Credit: Pixabay.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental condition in children, which often lasts into adulthood. If left unchecked, ADHD can negatively affect a child’s performance at school and relationships with parents and peers. The condition is more common among boys than girls, affecting around 1 in 20 children.

While it’s completely normal for children to be inattentive and all over the place, those with ADHD tend to behave this way more frequently for their age and can’t seem to outgrow this behavior.

ADHD can be an extremely complex condition, which can be challenging to diagnose as symptoms can overlap with other psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and depression.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD is usually discovered during the first years in school, when a child displays obvious signs of lack of attention in class. However, ADHD can manifest differently from child to child, sometimes in ways that defy the popular notion of a restless, inattentive individual.

Psychiatrists group ADHD symptoms into three main categories.

The inattentive type display the following symptoms (children need to check six of these boxes to be diagnosed with this type of ADHD, while adults need to check five):

  • Frequent careless mistakes during routine tasks at school or/and difficulty paying close attention to details.
  • Difficulties staying focused on tasks or activities, such as longer reading or school lectures.
  • Does not seem to listen during conversations. It seems like they’re always somewhere else with their minds.
  • Difficulty following instructions and completing chores, schoolwork, or duties at work. Often, a person will start working on their tasks but would later lose focus quickly.
  • Difficulty organizing tasks, managing time, and meeting deadlines.
  • Avoiding or disliking tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as preparing reports and completing forms.
  • A propensity for misplacing or losing items used on a daily basis, such as keys, wallet, phone, glasses, and school reports.
  • Is easily distracted.
  • Easily forgets about routine tasks and activities, such as homework, doing chores, returning phone calls, keeping appointments, or paying bills.
  • A child with ADHD may stare into space, daydream, and ignore what’s going on around them. ADHD isn’t all about being loud and rambunctious.

Then there’s the hyperactive/impulsive type (six checkpoints for children and five for adults):

  • Constant fidgeting or squirming in their seats. Often, children with ADHD can’t seem to stand still for a minute.
  • Running about or climbing where it is clearly inappropriate.
  • Problems playing or performing leisure activities quietly without disturbing other people. Often, this goes hand in hand with the fidgeting.
  • Always “on the go” or “wired”.
  • Talks too much.
  • An insatiable urge to speak during conversations when it’s not their turn. For instance, blurting out answers to questions before they’ve been completely enounced or finishing other people’s sentences.
  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn, such as while queuing in line.
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others by butting into conversations, games or activities that they’re not part of, or using other people’s things without permission. Adults may take over what others are doing.

Some people with ADHD have a combination of symptoms from both types, displaying a combined presentation of symptoms.

Symptoms also change over time, so the presentation type can be altered as well as an individual ages.

For instance, adults will display many of the ADHD symptoms they had as a child, along with others they acquired over the years depending on their coping mechanisms. These may include:

  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems at work
  • Trouble controlling anger
  • Impulsiveness
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Disorganized
  • Procrastination
  • Easily frustrated
  • Chronic boredom
  • Trouble concentrating when reading
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems

Many adults with ADHD don’t even realize they have the disorder until they go through a comprehensive review of past and current symptoms.

What causes ADHD?

ADHD is a complex disorder, the causes of which are still the subject of much debate. While the exact causes and risk factors responsible for ADHD aren’t set in stone, researchers have made tremendous progress in the past decade.

Like in most disorders, genetics likely plays a major role. In 2018, an international team of researchers identified 12 different regions of DNA (a total of 304 gene variants) that are associated with ADHD.

These aren’t ‘ADHD genes’, but rather each gene variant may make a person slightly more prone to developing ADHD. The tiny risk is negligible on its own, but when you stack up all the potentially problematic gene variants, you end up with a “polygenic risk score” that can be significant. Collectively, common genetic factors accounted for approximately 22% of the risk of ADHD.

The candidate genes identified in the study play various roles, including involvement in synapse formation, speech development, learning, and the regulation of dopamine. 

Besides genetics, scientists are studying other risk factors, including environmental effects during pregnancy (lead exposure, smoking) or at a young age, along with premature delivery, low birth weight, and brain injuries.

There is evidence that ADHD is caused by eating sugar, watching too much TV, living in poverty, going to a poor school, or food allergies, as some have speculated.

ADHD and addiction

While there are many people who are highly functional despite having ADHD (around 4% of the adult population in the US is estimated to have the disorder), the condition is also associated with life-long impairments in several facets of life, including educational and professional achievements, self-image and interpersonal relationships.

However, one of the darkest sides of ADHD is its propensity for addiction.

Addiction is an inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. From a neurological standpoint, addiction is associated with dysfunctional patterns in brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry

Because dopamine neurotransmission dysfunction seems at least partially responsible for the disorder’s symptoms, ADHD often co-occurs with substance use disorders.

According to one study, ADHD is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of psychoactive substance use disorder. In addition, it is estimated that more than 25% of substance-abusing adolescents meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. A 2004 survey found that 60% of adults with ADHD have been addicted to tobacco while 52% have used drugs recreationally.

“One of the strongest predictors of substance use disorders in adulthood is the early use of substances, and children and teens with ADHD have an increased likelihood of using substances at an early age,” Dr. Jeff Temple, a licensed psychologist, and director of behavioral health and research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told Health Line.

Bearing these risks in mind, clinicians advise starting ADHD treatment as soon as possible during childhood, before a person has the chance to develop a substance use disorder during their teens or adulthood.

ADHD treatment

There is no cure for ADHD, but its symptoms can be managed with medication and/or therapy.

Generally, stimulants are prescribed in order to manage hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, as well as increasing attention span. Some of the most prescribed medication include:

  • Amphetamine (Adzenys XR ODT, Dyanavel)
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methylphenidate (Aptensio, Cotempla, Concerta, Daytrana, Jornay, PM, Metadate, Methylin, Quillivant, Ritalin)

Medication should be used in conjunction with therapy meant to lead to long-lasting changes in behavior. This may include special education, behavior modification therapy, psychotherapy, and social skills training.

In addition, having a healthy lifestyle can make it easier for children to deal with ADHD symptoms. This may include:

  • Developing healthy eating habits such as eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and choosing lean protein sources
  • Exercising regularly based on age
  • Limiting the amount of daily screen time from TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age

Bottom line: there is still so much we don’t know about ADHD, but it is certainly possible to live a normal and happy life despite having the disorder, as long as patients are careful to manage their condition and ask for proper help.

Researchers hone in on potential antibodies against OCD, maybe other mental disorders too

Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Roehampton, London report finding a potential antibody treatment against obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) — in mice.

Image via Pixabay.

The team reports that human patients suffering from OCD show increased levels of a protein called Immuno-moodulin (Imood) in lymphocytes, a type of immune cell. Mice whose lymphocytes were modified to show the same high levels of Imood showed behaviors that are characteristic of anxiety and stress, such as digging and excessive grooming, which are related to OCD.

However, the team also showed that an antibody can be used to neutralize the protein, which reduced the animals’ apparent anxiety levels in lab tests. The findings might help us develop a similar treatment for humans.

There’s a pill for that

“There is mounting evidence that the immune system plays an important role in mental disorders,” said Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto, a professor of immunology at the University of Roehampton and honorary professor of Immunopharmacology at Queen Mary University of London, who led the research. “And in fact people with auto-immune diseases are known to have higher than average rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and OCD.”

“Our findings overturn a lot of the conventional thinking about mental health disorders being solely caused by the central nervous system.”

Professor D’Acquisto first identified Imood by chance while studying a different protein (Annexin-A1) and the role it plays in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. As part of the study, he engineered lab mice to overexpress this protein in their immune cells in the hopes of inducing autoimmune diseases in the animals and found that the mice were more anxious than normal. Upon closer inspection, the team found that one protein was especially active and likely protected the animals from such diseases.

Curious about its effects, the team administered an antibody treatment to the mice that would block the Imood gene — and their behavior returned to normal within a couple of days. This led the team to christen the gene encoding it “Immuno-moodulin”.

Later on, the team tested the immune cells of 23 patients with OCD and 20 healthy volunteers to check if they showed any differences in Imood levels. OCD patients had around six times higher expression of these genes than the controls. Together with previous findings, the team is confident that this showcases the role this protein has in mental health disorders such as OCD or ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).

The team believes that the gene encoding the protein doesn’t directly influence brain functions, but that its activity is tied to that of other genes in brain cells that are linked to disorders like OCD.

“This is work we still have to do to understand the role of Imood,” says Professor D’Acquisto. “We also want to do more work with larger samples of patients to see if we can replicate what we saw in the small number we looked at in our study.”

“It is early still, but the discovery of antibodies — instead of the classical chemical drugs — for the treatment of mental disorders could radically change the life of these patients as we foresee a reduced chance of side effects,” he adds.

The team is collaborating with the biopharmaceutical company UCB to develop antibodies against Imood that can be used in humans and to understand how this could be used to treat patients with mental disorders. Professor D’Acquisto estimates it could take up to five years before a treatment is ready for clinical trials.

The paper “Immuno-moodulin: A new anxiogenic factor produced by Annexin-A1 transgenic autoimmune-prone T cells” has been published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Credit: NeuroSigma.

Device that offers safe, non-drug treatment for children with ADHD gets FDA approval

Credit: NeuroSigma.

Credit: NeuroSigma.

Both children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have to take medication like Adderall and Ritalin to control their condition. But very soon, parents in the US will have access to a novel treatment for ADHD that doesn’t involve drugs or psychotherapy — it’s a medical device attached to a child’s forehead which zaps the nervous system with a mild electrical shock.

The device manufactured by NeuroSigma is called the Monarch external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNS) System. Over the weekend, it was granted clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of children aged 7 to 12 who are currently not on any medication for their ADHD.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and acting impulsively. The CDC estimates that this disorder affects roughly 5% of under-18-year-olds (although the exact figure is likely higher) and two-thirds of those diagnosed continue to experience symptoms as adults.

NeuroSigma started designing their device in order to treat ADHD children who don’t respond to medication as well as to avoid the use of drugs that can have unpleasant side effects. Up to 25% of ADHD children do not respond to stimulants like Adderall or atomoxetine. The latter drug is typically the most effective but is also known to cause addiction, substance use disorder, and suicide ideation.

In the past decades, researchers have shown that stimulating certain parts of the brain with carefully tuned electric shocks can treat a range of neurological conditions like depression, epilepsy, and anxiety. Some approaches involve surgically implanting electrodes into the brain, however, the Monarch eTNS is far from being that extreme. The non-invasive, smartphone-sized device sends mild current to a patch attached on the forehead right above the eyebrows. The stimulation, which provokes a tingling sensation on the skin, makes its way through the cranial nerve to reach the cerebral cortex, which regulates emotions, behavior, and focus.

Earlier this year, researchers conducted a double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial involved 62 children with moderate to severe ADHD. One group was treated with the Monarch eTNS over a four-week period while a control group received a fake device that sent a sham electrical signal. At the end of the trial, those who were treated by the real device showed a significantly higher reduction in their ADHD symptoms than the control. The degree of improvement was on par with what you’d expect to see from non-stimulant treatment, such as behavioral therapy, which tends to be slightly less effective than drugs. However, the device makes up for this because of the lack of significant health risks — or none that we know of so far.

The device did produce some side effects such as drowsiness, trouble sleeping, teeth grinding, headaches, and fatigue, but these are quite mild compared to current pharmacological options. The price for the device will allegedly be equivalent to that of ADHD drugs, or just over $1,000. The same system can also be used to treat epilepsy and depression.

Credit: Marine Corps.

The perverse link between ADHD and addiction

Credit: Marine Corps.

Credit: Marine Corps.

While the exact number of adults with ADHD is unknown, it is estimated that 4% of the U.S. adult population is affected by ADHD. While most people can function very well and become successful despite their condition, ADHD is also associated with life-long impairments in several facets of life, including educational and professional achievements, self-image and interpersonal relationships. But one of the darkest sides of ADHD is its propensity for addiction.

Why ADHD can lead to substance abuse

Addiction is a global problem that affects people from all walks of life, irrespective of gender, financial status, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or spiritual practice. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry,” which leads to dysfunctional behavior in order to provoke relief in spite of the negative consequences a person may attract.

“Addiction is an inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death,” according to a characterization on the ASAM website.

It’s these changes in the brain that make addiction so dangerous, causing a person to lose control over his or her use of substances. This also leads to subsequent problems at work, in relationships, and with one’s sense of self-worth and esteem.

Some people are more vulnerable to addiction than others. One primary factor which specialists have identified are adverse childhood experiences, which create their own brain changes. Research has also identified neurological conditions that make people prone to addiction, ADHD being one of them.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a syndrome characterized by persistent patterns of inattention and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity that is inappropriate for a given age or developmental stage. The exact causes of ADHD are still unknown but the evidence so far suggests that dopamine neurotransmission dysfunction is at least partially responsible for the disorder’s symptoms. This dopamine link may also explain why ADHD often co-occurs with substance use disorders.

Symptoms of ADHD across lifespan. Credit: ADHD Institute.

Symptoms of ADHD across lifespan. Credit: ADHD Institute.

The risk of drug and substance abuse is significantly increased in adults with persisting ADHD symptoms who have not been receiving medication. According to one study, ADHD is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of psychoactive substance use disorder. In addition, it is estimated that more than 25% of substance-abusing adolescents meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. A 2004 survey found that 60% of the adults with ADHD have been addicted to tobacco while 52% have used drugs recreationally.

“One of the strongest predictors of substance use disorders in adulthood is the early use of substances, and children and teens with ADHD have an increased likelihood of using substances at an early age,” Dr. Jeff Temple, a licensed psychologist and director of behavioral health and research in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told Health Line.

Bearing all of this in mind, clinicians working with patients that suffer from both ADHD and substance abuse may need to use a different approach than they would normally. While the treatment literature for ADHD in patients with substance use disorder is not well developed, the emerging trend is that medications effective for adult ADHD may be effective for adults with ADHD and co-occurring substance use disorder. Exercising regularly and having behavioral health checkups during treatment are also important.

The key seems to be starting ADHD treatment as early as possible, before a person has the chance to develop a substance use disorder during his or her teens. Although there is no “cure” for ADHD, there are accepted treatments that specifically target its symptoms. However, it is essential that ADHD treatment begins when the patient is sober, so some drug or alcohol detox may be required before treatment.

“A conservative approach for treating co-occurring ADHD and SUD would be to begin treatment with a non-stimulant pharmacotherapy, but if an adequate response is not obtained, consider stimulant pharmacotherapy. The decision regarding the use of stimulant medications for a patient with ADHD and a co-occurring substance use disorder should be made on the basis of a broad clinical assessment and an individual risk-benefit analysis. For many patients, psychostimulants can be used safely and effectively; however, careful monitoring during treatment is essential to ensure prescribed stimulants are being used in a therapeutic manner, and in the case of worsening substance use or when faced with evidence of the diversion of prescribed medication, treatment should be discontinued,” according to researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Scientists find first genetic risk factors linked to ADHD

In the largest study of its kind, scientists have identified genetic variants associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for the very first time. The researchers have not really found “ADHD genes” but rather a cluster of genetic variations that, taken together, may put a person at risk of developing ADHD, as well as other conditions.

Credit: Flickr.

Researchers have been aware for some time that there are genetic components to ADHD since there’s a higher chance that the siblings of a person with ADHD will have the condition as well. Until recently, genome-wide analyses failed to come up with any statistically significant associations between gene variants and ADHD. However, thanks to advances in genetic sequencing, researchers were able to gain access to a huge sample size, enabling them to finally tease out 12 different regions of DNA that seem to play a role in ADHD risk.

Stephen Faraone, Anders Børglum, Benjamin Neale, and colleagues analyzed the genomes of over 55,000 individuals, of which 20,000 had ADHD. Their analysis uncovered 304 gene variants that may be involved in ADHD, the authors reported in the journal Nature Genetics.

Each gene variant may make a person slightly more prone to developing ADHD, a complex condition affecting around 1 in 20 children. The tiny risk is negligible on its own, but when you stack up all the potentially problematic gene variants, you end up with a “polygenic risk score” that can be significant. Collectively, common genetic factors accounted for approximately 22% of the risk of ADHD.

These gene variants may put people at risk of a wide range of diseases and conditions. The authors found that 44 different diseases and traits share common genetic signals with ADHD, including depression, anorexia nervosa, and insomnia.

The candidate genes identified by the researchers play various roles, including involvement in synapse formation, speech development, learning and the regulation of dopamine. The researchers also found that diagnosed ADHD appears to share much of the same genetic background as the traits of ADHD, like inattention and fidgetiness, that can be measured in the general population.

“The correlation between these rather different definitions of ADHD suggests that clinically diagnosed ADHD may be the severe end of a continuous distribution of symptoms in the general population,” the researchers explained.

The genome-wide association study does not carry any practical implications for people with ADHD — not yet at least. What it does, however, is open the door to new research that will investigate these candidate gene variants more closely. Studies done in the future, which will certainly include even more people, will be able to identify other genome-wide associations. Ultimately, such work will have a profound impact on the development of new and better therapies that treat ADHD in both children and adults.

Think Big.

Creative fields have a lot to benefit from people with ADHD, new study says

In creative fields, ADHD isn’t a liability — it’s a strength.

Think Big.

Image credits Silvia & Frank / Pixabay.

It’s widely held belief that kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD for short, will have a hard time finding employment later on in life. Well, concerned parents of the world, fret not: a new study from the University of Michigan found that adults with ADHD actually have a unique edge they bring to creative tasks.

Not all those who wander are lost

“Creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers,” said study author Holly White, a researcher in the U-M Department of Psychology.

ADHD is commonly diagnosed during childhood. Its best-known facets are that kids with ADHD have a hard time focusing on a single task or object for extended periods of time, and that they can’t ‘sit still’. However, that’s a pretty narrow take on the disorder. Children with ADHD actually have very good attention spans — but only for tasks, they find interesting. This is a particularly important distinction to make since people with ADHD also tend to resist conformity and ignore typical information — i.e. telling them what they should do isn’t very effective, and most things we do are simply boring to them.

Perhaps not the best cloth from which to tailor an engineer, but these traits may be solid assets in fields that value innovative and non-traditional approaches, such as marketing, product design, technology, and computer engineering, White explains. She and her team worked with a group of college students, with and without ADHD, and pitted them in lab challenges of creativity.

For the first (the imagination) task, each participant had to invent a new example of a common category that is different from all existing examples. Participants had to (among others) compete in an “alien fruit” invention task, where they were asked to create an example of a fruit that might exist on another planet but is different from a fruit known to exist on Earth.

Non-ADHD participants tended to model their creations after specific common fruits, such as apples or strawberries, the team reports. While not bad, these creations were less innovative than those of the second group. This group, formed out of participants with ADHD, created fruits that differed more from typical fruits, and were more original — i.e. they resembled rarer fruits and shared fewer similarities with these compared with the first group’s creations. The second task had the participants invent labels for three categories of new products without copying the examples provided. The ADHD group again created labels that were more creative and differed the most from the examples provided.

Overall, the results suggest that people with ADHD rely less on previous knowledge or examples when dealing with a task, allowing them more flexibility when being creative. Individuals with ADHD may be less prone to design fixation, which is the tendency to stick closely to the beaten path when creating a new product, White said.

“As a result, the creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers,” she adds.

“This has implications for creative design and problem solving in the real world, when the goal is to create or invent something new without being overly constrained by old models or ways of doing things”.

The paper “Thinking “Outside the Box”: Unconstrained Creative Generation in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” has been published in The Journal of Creative Behavior.

ADHD’s restlessness and impulsivity could actually make you a better entrepreneur, study finds

That guy who says he has ADHD and can’t stay still in lecture? He’ll probably make a great entrepreneur when college is over, a new study has found. The disorder’s associated traits seem to foster entrepreneurship, making people more willing to embrace new experiences and demonstrate passion and persistence in their work.

Image credits Génesis Gabriella.

ADHD gets a lot of bad rep, being associated with hyperactivity, poor concentration, and impulsive behavior. And overall, it’s a disorder that’s viewed as having a negative impact on someone’s performance, be it academic or in the workplace. So why then do successful entrepreneurs often exhibit this disorder?

“We noticed sometime that some symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship — in a positive sense,” says Prof. Holger Patzelt of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Working together with Professor Johan Wiklund at the Syracuse University Dimo Dimov at the University of Bath, Patzelt surveyed 14 self-employed people diagnosed with ADHD about their diagnoses, career path, and personal background. Their study shows that central traits of ADHD have had a decisive role to play in the subjects’ decision to go into business as well as their approach to entrepreneurship.

First on the list is impulsiveness. People with ADHD are notorious for their short attention span and patience, and several of the participants listed boredom as a big factor in their decision to self-employ — as it allowed them to pursue their own ideas whenever they desired. One woman said that running her own company has allowed her to introduce 250 new products in just a few years. Many participants also reported being at ease, even stimulated, by situations that others would find stressful, such as meetings with important customers.

“Their impulsiveness, resulting from ADHD, gives them the advantage of being able to act under unforeseen circumstances without falling into anxiety and paralysis,” says Patzelt.

Most of the subjects also reported they often act without thinking of the consequences, relying on intuition even for choices that have far-reaching effects. One participant described how he found out a friend was retiring and deciding to buy his company over the course of a single lunch. Others say they make investments with no strategy and are willing to commit large sums of money on projects with highly uncertain outcomes. Some say that this kind of quick decision making is key to staying productive, and are willing to suffer some setbacks from time to time — others have difficulty coping with structured activities.

This willingness to try new things and take risks is “an important entrepreneurial trait,” Parzelt says. However, he notes that these impulsive actions led to success only when they focused on activities essential to the development of the respondents’ businesses.

It’s a pretty nifty business plan.
Image credits Tumisu / Pixabay.

But it does come with a drawback, too. All participants mentioned they have problems with routine tasks such as bookkeeping.

Hyperfocus

If they develop a strong interest in a task or subject, people with ADHD can sometimes pursue it with an incredible level of single-mindedness, know as hyperfocus. One of the subjects said he often becomes completely absorbed in his work — crafting customer solutions. Another said he keeps up with new technologies in his field to such an extent that he is now often contacted as an expert on the subject.

Many of the respondents also said they work day and night without taking time off. This could come down to their hyperfocus, but can also be explained through the physical restlessness associated with ADHD. Because their energy levels can fluctuate wildly throughout the day, a self-employment model works for better for those with ADHD than traditional nine to fives, allowing them to set their own hours of work.

“ADHD was a key factor in their decision to go into business for themselves and decisively impacted important entrepreneurial traits: risk taking, passion, persistence and time commitment,” Patzelt concludes.

“Impulsiveness has a special role to play. For People with ADHD it is okay to make intuitive decisions even if the results are bad. With their passion and persistence, and the expertise they acquire as a result, entrepreneurs can gain a substantial competitive advantage.”

Roughly one-third of those surveyed either had little success in their business ventures or had them fail completely. Still, Patzelt believes his findings warrant a reassessment of our assumptions about entrepreneurship.

“The way we evaluate entrepreneurial decisions is largely based on rationality and good outcomes. In view of the multitude of uncertainties, however, can such decisions always be rational? People with ADHD show us a different logic that is perhaps better suited to entrepreneurship.”

The full paper “Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed” has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights.

Mega-analysis proves ADHD is a real disorder caused by differences in brain structure

The largest brain-imaging study of ADHD to date identified differences in five areas of the brain that can be traced to the disorder. Furthermore, these differences were most pronounced in children rather than adults. The findings support ADHD’s recognition as a brain disorder.

Image credits Bob / Flickr.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and acting impulsively. The CDC estimates that this disorder affects roughly 5% of under-18-year-olds (although the exact figure is likely higher) and two-thirds of those diagnosed continue to experience symptoms as adults. But it often gets a bad rep as a smokescreen to hide difficult children or poor parenting, as a make-believe condition to excuse one’s behavior. Part of the problem stems from the fact that while investigations into the disorder have managed to link abnormalities in brain volume to ADHD, they’ve generally been performed on small samples — making some people refute their conclusions.

Now, the largest study to date of ADHD looked at the brain of more than 3,200 people to come up with clear, solid data on the condition. The authors say their findings further our understanding of ADHD and should offer solid footing for anyone who has to prove the validity of the disorder.

It’s all in the brain

The international study measured the differences in brain structure seen in 1,713 people diagnosed with ADHD and 1,529 who weren’t, between the ages of 4 and 63 years old. They each had an MRI scan performed to determine the overall brain volume and the size of seven areas previously linked to ADHD — the pallidum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and hippocampus. The team also noted if those with ADHD had ever taken psychostimulant medication such as Ritalin.

They report that overall brain volume and five of the regional volumes were smaller in people with ADHD — the caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and hippocampus.

“These differences are very small — in the range of a few percent — so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these. Similar differences in brain volume are also seen in other psychiatric disorders, especially major depressive disorder.” said lead author Dr Martine Hoogman from the Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Small differences can stand out in a big way,
Image via Pixabay

These differences were most obvious in the brains of children but were harder to pick out in the brains of adults (in both cases, diagnosed with ADHD.) The team proposes that ADHD is a brain disorder caused by delayed development in several brain regions. Beyond the caudate nucleus and putamen — which were linked by previous studies to the disorder — the team also showed that the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and hippocampus play a part in the onset of ADHD.

They believe that the slower development of the amygdala can explain the difficulty ADHD patients have in regulating their emotions, while that of the nucleus accumbens — which plays an important part in reward processing — explains their motivational and emotional difficulties. The hippocampus’ role in the disorder might act through its involvement in motivation and emotion.

“The results from our study confirm that people with ADHD have differences in their brain structure and therefore suggest that ADHD is a disorder of the brain,” added Dr Hoogman.

“We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is ‘just a label’ for difficult children or caused by poor parenting. This is definitely not the case, and we hope that this work will contribute to a better understanding of the disorder.”

At the time the MRI scans were taken, 455 people with ADHD were receiving psychostimulant medication and a further 637 had taken it at one point in their life. The five brain regions showed different volumes regardless of the fact that people had received this treatment or not, suggesting the differences in brain volumes are not a result of psychostimulants.

Still, while this study addressed the main critiques of previous work and established a strong link between ADHD and brain development, it cannot determine how the disorder develops throughout life. Studies tracking people with ADHD from childhood to adulthood to see how brain differences change over time will be an important next step in the research.

The full paper “Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: a cross-sectional mega-analysis” has been published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

Smoking grandmother

Smoking may cause ADHD in future generations

Smoking grandmother

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

It’s been well established that smoking substantially affects health for more than a century (a bit less than that in official gov records), yet its long term effects on future generations may be more dangerous than anyone might have guessed. The perils of second hand smoke have been proven for a while, but scientists will have a real tough time confirming a most recent hypothesis that links the ever rising cases of ADHD with nicotine intake. To be more precise, the idea involves epigenetics and data so far suggests that it may be possible that some children today grow to develop ADHD because their grandmother had smoked  in pregnancy, even though the actual mother never smoked.

It’s really fascinating, and if some may find the idea of smoking inflicting genetic changes for generations to come , read on and you might find it plausible as well. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that affects children and adolescents and can continue into adulthood for some.The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD. Some experts, though, say ADHD may occurs in 8% to 10% of school-aged children. Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can’t seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act.

From grandmother to grandchild

Pradeep G. Bhide and Jinmin Zhu, both researchers at Florida State University, believe they have evidence that ADHD induced by nicotine can be passed across generations. Doctors know for some time that drinking and smoking during pregnancy can cause ADHD, but the present research discusses the possibility of ADHD as  an environmentally induced health condition. Previously, it was shown that nicotine can leave permanent marks on the genome which make future offspring more susceptible to respiratory conditions.

“What our research and other people’s research is showing is that some of the changes in your genome – whether induced by drugs or by experience – may be permanent and you will transmit that to your offspring,” said Bhide.

Building on this sort of research, like studies that showed stress and fear can be genetically passed on to future generations, the Florida State scientists  found a link between prenatal nicotine exposure and hyperactivity in mice. Their data, however, suggest that there is a transgenerational transmission via the maternal, but not the paternal, line of descent.

“What’s important about our study is that we are seeing that changes occurring in my grandparents’ genome because of smoking during pregnancy are being passed to my child,” says Bhide. “So if my child had ADHD it might not matter that I did not have a disposition or that I never smoked.”

The exact causes of ADHD are widely debatable, but what scientists do know for sure is that it’s somehow genetic, seeing how ADHD parents are more likely to foster ADHD children. The past few decades has seen an alarmingly high increase in ADHD cases, and various explanations have been sought. The researchers speculate on their findings and claim  one possible contributing factor in the current spike in ADHD cases  is the rising number of women who picked up smoking following the second world war or today grandmothers.

“Genes are constantly changing. Some are silenced and others are expressed, and that happens not only by hereditary mechanisms, but because of something in the environment or because of what we eat or what we see or what we hear,” Bhide said. “So the genetic information that is transmitted to your offspring is qualitatively different than the information you got from your parents. The next question is how does transmission to future generations happen? What is the mechanism? And the second question is, if the individual is treated successfully would that stop the transmission to future generations?”

Findings appeared in  The Journal of Neuroscience.

Yoga helps reduce symptoms of most major psychiatric diseases

It’s a well known fact that yoga does good to the mind and body, but the extent of that benefit is something still debated. Now, yoga supporters have just gotten a big hand from a study conducted by psychiatrists.

yoga

“Yoga has also become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and consumers to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” researchers from Duke University Medical Center write in their study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

In order to find out what are the facts and what is fiction, they reviewed over 100 studies analyzing yoga effects on the body and mind.

“Most individuals already know that yoga produces some kind of a calming effect. Individually, people feel better after doing the physical exercise,” says lead study author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center. “Mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content. We thought it’s time to see if we could pull all [the literature] together … to see if there’s enough evidence that the benefits individual people notice can be used to help people with mental illness.”

Ok, so the first thing that struck out was that yoga greatly helps in relatively mild conditions, such as a mild depression, sleep disorders, ADHD, etc. But then, after digging up more and more conclusions, researchers were surprised to see that even with severe diseases such as schizophrenia yoga does patients a great deal of good. In fact, they found positive effects of the mind-and-body practice for all conditions with the exception of eating disorders and cognition.

What’s interesting is that not only did it help improve the condition of medicated patients, but it also greatly improved the state of patients who weren’t taking any meds, suggesting that yoga might affect the body in ways similar to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

schizophrenia yoga

Incorporating yoga as a complementary treatment for mental disorders is not uncommon, and judging by the effects of yoga on mental health, the technique should be implemented in even more treatments.

“Many millions of Americans are doing yoga and many millions of Americans have mental illnesses and are popping psychiatric pills daily. Despite all of this, the vast majority of studies looking at the benefits of yoga are all small studies. We did not come across a single study where there was a coordinated effort done by some large agency to really conduct a large national study,” says Doraiswamy.

However, warn researchers, yoga isn’t a panacea for mental illness, and patients shouldn’t try to replace their treatment with yoga. This should be used only as complementary.

“What we are saying is that we still need to do further, large-scale studies before we are ready to conclude that people with mental illnesses can turn to yoga as a first-line treatment,” says Doraiswamy. ”We are not saying throw away your Prozac and turn to yoga. We’re saying it has the promise and potential. If a large national study were done, it could turn out that yoga is just as good and may be a low cost alternative to people with unmet needs.”

In the meantime, one thing’s for sure: adding yoda as a complement to your treatment, and starting it even if you’re not suffering from any condition is not doing to hurt you – seriously.

Brain Matures A Few Years Late In ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern

adhd

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Hyperkinetic Disorder affects about 5% of the world’s population. It is hard to cure it and in it is currently considered to be a persistent and chronic condition and medicine does not have any cure. This is because we fail to understand it as numerous studies have shown contrary results.

What we do know are some ways that could help cure it but nothing is guaranteed. But a study from National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has shown for a fact that in youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions. This was found out with brain imaging.

“Finding a normal pattern of cortex maturation, albeit delayed, in children with ADHD should be reassuring to families and could help to explain why many youths eventually seem to grow out of the disorder,” explained Philip Shaw, M.D., NIMH Child Psychiatry Branch, who led the research team.

They were not able to find this out before because their focus was the size of the relatively large lobes of the brain. With a better image analysis technique, they were able to pinpoint the thickening and thinning of thousands of cortex sites in hundreds of children and teens, with and without the disorder.

They hope to learn about the genetic underpinnings of the delay and ways of boosting processes of recovery from the disorder. “Brain imaging is still not ready for use as a diagnostic tool in ADHD,” noted Shaw. “Although the delay in cortex development was marked, it could only be detected when a very large number of children with the disorder were included. It is not yet possible to detect such delay from the brain scans of just one individual. The diagnosis of ADHD remains clinical, based on taking a history from the child, the family, and teachers.”. So this may not be a huge leap but it is at least a place to start.