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Old 06-05-09, 11:07 PM
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Connection between ADHD and Personality Disorders?

This subject was brought up in another thread so I thought it would be a good idea to start a new thread on this subject.

First, let me start by saying that they are separate disorders. ADHD does not turn into a personality disorder. However, symptoms can overlap and in some cases, ADHD can be a risk factor for developing certain personality disorders.

Generally, it is the presence of conduct disorder, not simply ADHD, that puts one at risk for developing antisocial personality disorder. It doesn't mean that someone will definitely will develop the disorder.

The Milwaukee study of ADHD in adults (see the book "ADHD in Adults--What the Science Says" by Russell Barkley, Kevin Murphy and Mariellen Fischer) found a high comorbidity of personality disorders with adult ADHD, with the top three being Passive-Aggressive, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). On the reverse side, there was a study done in Italy that indicated that a high percentage of adult patients with BPD would have qualified for a childhood diagnosis of ADHD (more than half). Unfortunately, there are few studies on ADHD in adults and even fewer that would include both ADHD and personality disorders.

No one knows the exact cause of personality disorders but generally, it is believed to be a combination of genetic/biological factors and trauma, abuse or other environmental stressors. There are some risk factors that have been identified but that is not equivalent to a cause.

Child abuse and/or trauma can affect the development of the brain, even causing damage to the brain or neural circuitry. If the individual already has a genetic or biological predisposition for a particular disorder, they are at greater risk for developing a disorder.

I liken it to Diabetes 2, where certain factors put one at risk for developing it. You can lessen the risk by doing certain things (like not smoking, eating healthier, exercising, etc) but some people will still develop Diabetes and others may be able to avoid it.

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