We have been getting more member questions lately about whether or not thyroid problems could cause symptoms of ADHD or if there is any overlap between these two disorders. I am hoping that our members can help us in our exploration of this topic. I have been searching for the available information on this association between thyroid problems and ADHD and there just doesn’t seem to be much out there in the way of research but I will share what I have found.
Our Eileen Bailey has written previously about medical conditions which share symptoms with ADHD. Thyroid dysfunction can cause symptoms such as the inability to concentrate and memory problems. These symptoms are similar to ADHD symptoms of inattention and forgetfulness.
In researching the similarities between symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and ADHD symptoms I found some interesting articles and research including the ones listed below:
• A 2007 Discover article entitled, Misdiagnosing ADHD, author Mark Cohen describes the case of a 12-year old girl whose mother was worried that she was showing signs of having ADHD. In what could be a story line right out of the medical drama, House, Cohen struggles over an appropriate diagnosis for the young patient who presents with difficulties at school including inattention and disorganization. Yet in exploring further, it is found that her difficulties began within the past year of being seen and she did not have enough of the symptoms of ADHD to warrant a diagnosis. Her lab tests showed that she may have resistance to thyroid hormone, which can cause ADHD symptoms but is rare. In the end they found that the girl had early symptoms of Grave’s disease which causes hyperthyroidism. Some of these symptoms may include hyperactivity, nervousness, moodiness, forgetfulness, and inattention. When treated for her thyroid problem, her problems at school disappeared.
• In 1997 Science Daily reported on research showing a link between hyperactivity and thyroid hormones. University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found a positive correlation between elevated levels of certain thyroid hormones and hyperactivity/impulsivity in a select group of patients. They looked at patients who had resistance to thyroid hormone, a thyroid disease characterized by elevated levels of serum T3 and T4. They found that high concentrations of T3 and T4 were significantly and positively correlated with hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms but not with symptoms of inattention.
• There are some informal assessments on-line which depict the overlap between thyroid disorders and ADHD such as this poll on an ADHD forum. It seems that on this particular forum a high percentage of members had both hypothyroidism and ADHD. Coincidence? It is anybody’s guess. (Please note that this was not a scientific study but merely an inquiry from a member on a forum and no formal conclusions can be made.)