Objective: This exploratory study aims to compare lifetime psychiatric axis-I-comorbidity and psychosocial functioning in a clinically referred sample of adult patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with a population-based healthy control group and to examine whether patients with ADHD and lifetime comorbid diagnoses differ from patients with pure ADHD in their functional impairment.
Method: Seventy adult patients with ADHD according to DSM-IV criteria and a gender- as well as age-matched population based control group underwent diagnostic evaluations with clinical interviews for ADHD, DSM-IV disorders and demographic information.
Results: The prevalence of psychiatric lifetime comorbidity was 77.1% in patients with ADHD and thus exceeded the rate in the control group, which was 45.7%. Significantly more patients suffered from depressive episodes, substance related disorders and eating disorders. Compared to the control group adults with ADHD were significantly impaired in a variety of psychosocial functions (education, occupational training). Patients with ADHD and lifetime diagnosis of comorbid psychiatric disorders differed from patients with pure ADHD in their psychosocial functioning only in the percentage of unemployed individuals, which was higher in patients with psychiatric comorbidity.
Conclusion: Adults with ADHD suffer significantly more often from other psychiatric disorders than individuals of the population-based control group and are impaired in several areas of psychosocial functioning. Poor psychosocial outcome is primarily related to ADHD and not to additional psychiatric disorders. Due to the limited number of assessed patients these results need to be confirmed by studies with larger sample size.