Trait-Based Dimensions Discriminating Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, Co-occurring ADHD/ASD

Brain Sci. 2020 Dec 26;11(1):18. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11010018.


This study assessed the co-occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in newly diagnosed adults of normal intelligence and the contribution of trait-based dimensions deriving from the Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV (BAARS-IV), the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), and the Empathy Quotient (EQ) to the differentiation of patients with ADHD, ASD, and ADHD/ASD. A total of 16.1% of patients with ADHD received a co-occurring ASD diagnosis, while 33.3% of patients with ASD received an ADHD diagnosis. Subjects with ADHD or ADHD/ASD had higher scores in all ADHD traits compared to ASD subjects. Compared to the ADHD group, the ASD group had AQ scores that were significantly greater, except for attention to detail. ADHD/ASD co-occurrence significantly increased the score of attention to detail. The total EQ score was greater in the ADHD group. In the stepwise logistic regression analyses, past hyperactivity, current inattention and impulsivity, attention switching, communication, imagination, and total EQ score discriminated ADHD patients from ASD patients. Attention to detail, imagination, and total EQ score discriminated ADHD cases from ADHD/ASD cases, while past hyperactivity and current impulsivity discriminated ASD subjects from ADHD/ASD subjects. Our findings highlight the importance of particular trait-based dimensions when discriminating adults with ADHD, ASD, and co-occurring ADHD/ASD.

Keywords: adults; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); autism spectrum disorder (ASD); self-report dimensions.