ADHD and Genetics

A recent study discovered a genetic variation associated with ADHD. The study found a greater likelihood of missing or duplicated segments of DNA (known as copy number variations) in children with ADHD. Therefore, rather than being perceived as being lazy or acting badly, this helps us understand that there are biological mechanisms contributing to ADHD symptoms. In other words, for many patients struggling to function with ADHD, it’s not that they won’t pull their act together, its that they can’t pull their act together (or at a minimum struggle to do so). These biologic contributions support the use of medication for ADHD. Of course, in addition to medication management, behavioral strategies are also important to create a structured environment and routine that isn’t accomplished naturally by those with ADHD.

By the way, many adults have the inattentive rather than hyperactive form of ADHD, which explains how the condition can go unrecognized into adulthood. The reason for this is that behavior problems in childhood often lead to the recognition of ADHD, and these behavior problems are typically not seen in the inattentive form of ADHD. Instead, adults with the inattentive type may have been labeled as lazy or underachievers as children. This can lead to self-blame and depression. Features of ADHD are further described in the July 3, 2010 blog post. Future studies will hopefully elucidate the exact genes involved in ADHD, and thereby more specifically inform treatment.

Regards, Dr. Ranen (Psychiatrist Baltimore, Baltimore County, Owings Mills)