Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach

BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 22;17(1):302. doi: 10.1186/s12888-017-1463-3.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the adult population is frequently associated with comorbid psychiatric diseases that complicate its recognition, diagnosis and management.The prevalence of ADHD in the general adult population is 2.5% and it is associated with substantial personal and individual burden. The most frequent comorbid psychopathologies include mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and personality disorders. There are strong familial links and neurobiological similarities between ADHD and the various associated psychiatric comorbidities. The overlapping symptoms between ADHD and comorbid psychopathologies represent challenges for diagnosis and treatment. Guidelines recommend that when ADHD coexists with other psychopathologies in adults, the most impairing condition should generally be treated first.Early recognition and treatment of ADHD and its comorbidities has the potential to change the trajectory of psychiatric morbidity later in life. The use of validated assessment scales and high-yield clinical questions can help identify adults with ADHD who could potentially benefit from evidence-based management strategies.

Keywords: Adult ADHD; Neurobiology; Psychiatric comorbidity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Early Medical Intervention / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychopathology
  • Quality of Life
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology