Why Are There So Many With ADHD?

ADDA Health Guide
  • Janet P. Kramer, MD. ADDA Board of Directors



    Until I came on the Board of ADDA*, I never realized that so many of my friends and colleagues were struggling with ADHD-and these are some of my most gifted friends. I then explored why this was the case. The following is only a partial answer to Why There Are So Many With ADHD.


    ADHD may confer survival benefits.

    Folks with ADHD in the past centuries, because of the ability to "think on their feet," acted on quick decisions and therefore preserved themselves. In other words, if the barbarians were just over the hill, ADHDers were able to get out of town fast without a great deal of planning. Is impulsivity really the ability to act on instinct? Is the action only labeled impulsive when the action doesn't turn out well? (For instance, like our youngsters flying off the garage roof or Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch declaring his love for Katie Holmes!)

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    ADHD is passed on genetically within families from parents to kids

    Dr. Max Mencke at The National Institute of Mental Health has been conducting genetic research on families with diagnosed ADHD and has found that there are a number of genes related to specific behavioral characteristics which define ADHD. We do know families pass these genes on to their offspring. There remain many questions such as:  Are behavioral manifestations of ADHD such as impulsivity, hyperfocus, distractibility, hyperactivity actually genetically driven chemical differences in various brain areas? How do these genes interact to give one person all of the manifestations of ADHD or other co-occuring mental health difficulties? How will all this relate to appropriate pharmacologic treatments?


    Rarely parents think they have caught ADHD from the kids. Most recognize that the behaviors that drive them to distraction are the same behaviors the parents had growing up. ADHD parents are instrumental in teaching their children appropriate ways to deal with the ADHD challenges in our modern complex world. As the song goes—accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!


    Countries with large immigrant populations have a larger percentage of the population with ADHD

    The United States is a prime example of a country with a higher percentage of ADHD compared with other advanced countries that have very uniform populations such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark.


    The vast majority of the United States citizens have ancestors who migrated here relatively recently because of poor conditions in their countries of origin. Is it any surprise then that more of us in the United States are ADHDers? We are the survivors! 


    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. As always I look forward to hearing from you.


    Janet Kramer

    *ADDA is the world's leading organization for adults with ADHD and can be contacted at www.add.org




Published On: July 02, 2008