Causes of Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. Usually, symptoms of ADHD are first noticed in childhood but are often misdiagnosed, causing many adults to live with ADHD well into their adult years.

What causes ADHD in adults?

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown; however, research has shown that it is associated with several factors including genetics, brain function, and environmental factors.


Studies have shown that ADHD has a strong genetic component. Research has identified several genes that may affect dopamine neurotransmitter systems, which are responsible for regulating attention, motivation, and behavior, and may contribute to developing ADHD. Individuals with a family history of ADHD are more likely to develop the condition than those without.

Brain Function

Research has shown that there are differences in the structure and function of the brain in individuals with ADHD compared to those without. Specifically, there appears to be a decrease in the volume of certain areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive function and decision-making. Other studies have shown differences in the functioning of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which are important in regulating attention and behavior.

Environmental Factors

Several environmental factors are thought to contribute to the development of ADHD in adults. These include:

  • Maternal Substance Abuse: Studies have found that prenatal exposure to alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs can increase the risk of developing ADHD.
  • Lead Exposure: Exposure to lead during childhood has been linked to an increased risk of developing ADHD.
  • Early Life Stress: Childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect can lead to changes in the brain’s development that increase the risk of developing ADHD.

Treatments for Adult ADHD

Treatment for adult ADHD usually involves pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. The medication prescribed for ADHD is usually a stimulant that increases the level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, improving attention and reducing impulsivity. Common medications used to treat ADHD include methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine-based drugs (Adderall).

Psychotherapy for adult ADHD often involves cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps individuals with ADHD change negative patterns of thinking and behavior. Other types of therapy may include coaching and support groups that help individuals with ADHD manage their symptoms and develop strategies to cope with the condition.


Adult ADHD can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, making it difficult to maintain relationships, hold down a job, or complete tasks. While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, research has shown that it is likely due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and brain function factors. Effective treatment for adult ADHD includes pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.


What are the main causes of Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

The exact cause of Adult ADHD is not known, but there are several factors that can contribute to the development of this condition. Some of the possible causes include genetics, brain chemistry, environmental factors, and brain injuries or trauma. Certain medical conditions such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression can also increase the risk of developing adult ADHD.

Can Adult ADHD be caused by lifestyle factors?

Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and chronic stress can exacerbate symptoms of Adult ADHD, but they are not believed to be direct causes of the condition. However, making positive changes to your lifestyle can help to manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

Is there a cure for Adult ADHD?

There is no cure for Adult ADHD, but treatment options such as medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes can help to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. It is important to work closely with a healthcare professional to find the right treatment plan for you. With proper management, people with Adult ADHD can lead fulfilling and productive lives.


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