Teen girls with ADHD at higher risk of mental illness
By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY
ATLANTA — Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a serious problem for teenage girls, and those who have it appear to be at much higher risk for mental illness by age 17, a Harvard Medical School researcher reported Tuesday.
The largest, most thorough study so far comparing girls with ADHD with peers who don't have it underscores the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, says study leader Joseph Biederman, a child psychiatrist. He spoke at the American Psychiatric Association meeting here.
Biederman's study tracked 140 girls with ADHD from ages 12 to 17 and compared them with 122 girls without the disorder. By 17, the ADHD girls were far more likely to be clinically depressed, to have anxiety disorders and to have conduct disorder.
About 10 boys are referred for ADHD treatment for every girl "and 99% of the childhood ADHD research is on boys," Biederman says. He believes it's because girls don't become disruptive as early in life as boys with ADHD do, so it often goes undiagnosed.
Among other ADHD reports presented at the meeting:
•Scientists are zeroing in on genes linked to ADHD, Harvard neuroscientist Pamela Sklar says. Genetics accounts for about 76% of a person's odds of developing the disorder.
•Small brain-scan studies in adults seem to confirm larger studies in kids showing that the brains of those with ADHD look different than those who don't have it, reports Harvard neuropsychologist Larry Seidman.
"We know it's a disorder that goes on across the life span and is brain-based," says Peg Nichols of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, an advocacy group.
But the usefulness of genetic and high-tech studies is questionable, says Walnut Creek, Calif., behavioral pediatrician Lawrence Diller.
"Behavior can change the brain — it goes in both directions," he says. "And there's a lot of misdiagnosis out there. Many kids in studies are quite impaired, not like the Tom Sawyers and Pippi Longstockings brought to my office for ADHD workups."
The end is near...I don't have time to shoe shop for Andi!
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