cALL 800-273-8255 or
text "sos" to 741741
24% Of Women With
ADHD Have Attempted Suicide, Study Finds
Women with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are many times more likely to have attempted suicide than women without the disorder and men with or without it, according to a recent study, while its lead author also finds hopeful signs in the data.
One in four women with the condition had attempted at some point in their life, compared to 3% of women without it, according to the Canadian study published in December in the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Among men, 9% with the disorder have attempted suicide, compared to 2% of those without ADHD.
Often people with ADHD have other conditions or experiences that contribute to their suicide risk, such as mental illness, substance use, and childhood exposure to domestic violence. Even when controlling for those, ADHD is still associated with a higher risk of suicide attempt, especially for women, said Esme Fuller-Thomson, lead author of the study and a professor of social work at the University of Toronto. The study underlines that women with ADHD are particularly vulnerable, and that is something that really has been under the radar screen, she said.
Researchers did not investigate why women with ADHD are at a higher risk for suicide, but Fuller-Thomson said that one reason may be that girls tend to be diagnosed later than boys, giving the condition time to get worse. That, in turn, could make them more vulnerable to attempting suicide.
We think of it as a boys, or a teenage boys, disorder, said Fuller-Thomson. People dont think of ADHD as a womans problem.
The US and Canada have comparable levels of overall prevalence of ADHD, and the countries are similar enough for the results to be relevant, she said.
Among people with ADHD there are several factors, including being a woman, that increase their risk, the study found. People who grew up in a home with domestic violence are vulnerable, as are those who have had depression or substance use disorders. For someone with ADHD having suicidal thoughts, substance use is especially dangerous because it makes it even harder for them to control an impulsive thought, such as a desire in the moment to attempt suicide, Fuller-Thomson said. People with ADHD might not have the ability to stop that thought, she said, and if youre under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it makes it harder.
Despite the risks, Fuller-Thomson emphasizes the positives: The flip side of one in four women with ADHD attempting suicide is that three in four do not. The vast majority of [people] with ADHD will not attempt suicide, she said, women or men. These risks can also be lowered, she said. Shortening the wait times for mental health services and tests for learning disabilities, which are more common among students with ADHD, would help, she said. Other researchers have found that getting treatment for ADHD improves a students long-term academic achievement. The study by Fuller-Thomson and her colleagues found that someone with ADHD who graduates from college has as 64% lower risk of attempting suicide. Its not clear whether someone with ADHD who achieves that postsecondary marker has less severe ADHD or is receiving more support. Regardless, schooling seems to be very protective against the risk of attempting suicide, she said.
It is also helpful, Fuller-Thomson said, to have somebody to turn to in a crisis someone who loves and cares for you whom you can confide in.
Just one person can make all the difference.
If you or someone you know is thinking
about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention
Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line
text "SOS" at 741-741.