Sensory profiles in adults with and without ADHD

Res Dev Disabil. 2020 Sep:104:103696. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103696. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


Background: Our previous work demonstrates that adults with ADHD produce more force at the fingertips compared to adults without ADHD. One possibility is that somatosensation is impaired in ADHD. However, ADHD is often comorbid with anxiety, and anxiety influences sensory responsivity.

Aims: The goal of the current work was to evaluate differences in the self-report of sensory experiences in adults with and without ADHD, while controlling for internalizing behaviors.

Methods and procedures: Forty-five adults (23 with ADHD) completed a semi-structured interview for the diagnosis of ADHD, the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP), and the Achenbach Adult Self Report (ASR).

Outcomes and results: Adults with ADHD reported more hyper- and hypo- sensitivity compared to adults without ADHD, even when controlling for internalizing behaviors. Specifically, between group differences were found for low registration, sensation seeking, and sensory sensitivity scores, but not for sensation avoiding, and for movement, visual, touch, activity, audition, or taste/smell.

Conclusions and implications: These findings demonstrate that sensory hyper- and hypo- sensitivity may be features of ADHD in adults. Further, they demonstrate that internalizing behaviors influence the perception of sensory experiences and thus should be accounted for in studies of sensory processing, integration, and modulation in adults with ADHD.

Keywords: Anxiety; Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Motor control; Sensory processing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Self Report
  • Touch
  • Touch Perception*