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Is ADHD Genetic?

Is ADHD Generic

Is ADHD Genetic?

If you’re living with ADHD, you know how difficult it can be to manage. You might feel restless, forgetful, impatient, or disorganized. Sometimes you need to work harder than others at work and school. You’re easily distracted, and sometimes it’s hard to sit still. With all these things you struggle with, it’s natural to wonder if you’ll pass ADHD onto your children. It’s also natural for you to wonder why you have ADHD in the first place.

At Sun Behavioral Health Columbus, we understand how frustrating these symptoms can be. We also understand where your questions are coming from and want to provide you with some answers. In this article, we’ll delve into ADHD, whether or not it’s hereditary, and what risk factors to look out for.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD aren’t the same for everyone. They can vary depending on a multitude of factors. Some of the more common symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Inability to sit still or focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorganized
  • Trouble keeping track of time and possessions
  • Impulsivity
  • Lack of self-control

There are also symptoms of ADHD that are just as common but not as well-known. Some of those include:

  • Inability to keep a job or complete schoolwork
  • Trouble with relationships and friendships
  • Emotional concerns
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative self-image
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Substance misuse
  • Racing thoughts and rumination
  • And more

Is ADHD Genetic?

A common question most people have is, “is ADHD hereditary?” You may wonder if you got it from your parents or if you’ll pass it on to your children. The answer is yes, ADHD includes a genetic component. 80% of children who have ADHD also have a parent who struggles with it as well. 33%-50% of parents who struggle with ADHD will pass it on to their children.

There are currently around 45 gene types that have been identified as high-risk for ADHD. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to confirm whether or not your child has these genes (or if you got them from your parents). There is still not enough research for this to be 100% conclusive. While we know that ADHD can be hereditary, we don’t know which parents will pass it on to their children.

Low levels of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, have also been linked to ADHD. People who have low dopamine levels in their brains are more likely to struggle with inattention and hyperactivity. They’re also more likely to struggle with making decisions and impulsivity. People with ADHD are shown to either produce low levels of dopamine or have a hard time metabolizing it.

Studies show that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means growth was impaired in the brain or nervous system at one point. It isn’t a disorder that someone can “grow out of.” If you’re an adult recently diagnosed with ADHD, that doesn’t mean you developed it as an adult. If you have it as an adult, you had it as a child.  The development of ADHD only happens in childhood. Many adults weren’t diagnosed as children, but it was likely something they struggled with. If you’re sure you didn’t have ADHD symptoms as a child, it could mean that you never had ADHD. Your current symptoms could be a result of another mood disorder, like depression or anxiety.

There is nothing parents can do to reduce the risk of passing ADHD along to their children, but there are things they can do to help.

What Are the Risk Factors for the Onset of ADHD?

We know that genetics play a role in the development of ADHD, but genetics are not the only causal factor at play. In rare cases, environmental factors have played a role in the childhood development of this disorder. Here are some common environmental risk factors for the development of ADHD:

  • Exposure to toxins. Environmental toxins like secondhand smoke, lead (from paint and pipes), and even an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency has been linked.
  • Prenatal behavior and conditions. ADHD has been linked to maternal prenatal behaviors like smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy. Prenatal use of antidepressants, caffeine, and heroin use might also play a role.
  • Trauma. Childhood trauma can affect the development of important areas in the brain like the cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, and frontal cortex. This can lead to the development of ADHD.
  • Premature birth. A child born too early may be at risk for developing ADHD.
  • Vitamin deficiency. A lack of Zinc could contribute to ADHD symptoms.
  • Food additives. Preservatives or foods with artificial dyes can contribute.

ADHD is a complex disorder, and it’s still being studied. A child's exposure to these environmental factors does not mean they’ll struggle with hyperactivity or impulsivity. These are simply links that have been observed. It’s also important to note that many children struggle with sustained attention or hyperactivity, but this doesn’t mean they have ADHD. Some of these behaviors stem from normal childhood development. This is one reason why an accurate diagnosis is vital.

Links between obesity and ADHD have also been observed, but it’s unclear if obesity is the risk factor or if the behaviors associated with the disorder create obesity. Impulsivity, one of the main symptoms of ADHD, can lead to behaviors like binge eating.

Can Someone Have ADHD and Another Disorder?

ADHD is often comorbid with mental and behavioral disorders. In fact, almost 80% of adults with ADHD have at least one coexisting psychiatric disorder. It’s fairly common for someone to have ADHD and depression, anxiety, and bipolar.

Similar to ADHD, mood disorders can also come with genetic predispositions. Having a genetic risk for a mood disorder doesn’t mean someone will automatically get one. Anxiety and depression, for example, can occur because of circumstantial factors (like too much stress or trauma). It should also be noted that the symptoms associated with ADHD can cause the mental distress that leads to depression or anxiety. For example, if someone living with ADHD has a hard time making friends because they struggle with listening or sitting still, this might lead to feelings of loneliness and helplessness, which can ultimately lead to a depressive disorder.

People living with ADHD also have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). While an SUD can also have genetic risk factors, it’s usually caused by trauma or fear responses. A study in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health explains that teens and adults with ADHD are twice as likely to form a dependence on alcohol or other drugs.

This is partly why treatment for ADHD can be so beneficial. Specialized, evidence-based treatment methods can help in controlling the symptoms of ADHD and mitigating the future risk of depressive disorders. Adult ADHD can be particularly difficult to handle if it isn’t managed properly. It can affect someone’s career, relationships, or social life.

Being diagnosed with ADHD doesn't have to be a bad thing. Many people learn how to thrive with ADHD, even if it was once unmanageable. At Sun Behavioral Health Columbus, our expert staff is standing by and ready to help. If you’d like to learn more about treatment for ADHD, please call us at (614) 706-2786.

FAQs About ADHD Being Genetic

Which parent passes on ADHD?

Both mothers and fathers can pass ADHD along to their children. In mothers, it has been noted that serotonin deficiencies are likely to be inherited. Serotonin deficiency is a contributing risk factor to the childhood development of the disorder. The father’s chance of passing ADHD onto his children is over 50%. Males are also more likely to develop ADHD as opposed to females. That being said, many females go undiagnosed because they present symptoms differently than boys. Mothers and fathers might have ADHD and pass it to their child without realizing it.

Are people born with ADHD, or does it develop later in life?

Studies show that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means at one point, the brain's or nervous system's growth was impaired. Childhood development of ADHD is possible with certain environmental risk factors at play. ADHD is only developed before the age of 12, which means if an adult is diagnosed, they’ve had it since childhood.

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