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Adult ADHD Undertreated, Study

Update Date: Oct 09, 2013 03:30 PM EDT

Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is undertreated, new research suggests.

While most people with the disorder have ADHD that persists into adulthood, only a small proportion of adults ever receive a formal diagnosis and treatment, according to researchers.

For most people, ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopment disorder that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. Statistics show that around 3 percent to 4 percent of adults are affected by ADHD, which is associated with a broad range of psychosocial impairments.

"In contrast [to the 3-4 percent prevalence rate], diagnostic prevalence is below 0.5 percent, indicating that a majority of cases go undiagnosed and untreated," researcher Dr. Esther Sobanski of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany, said in a news release.

People with ADHD often have peer-group, relationship and parenting difficulties as well as poor work and academic performance.

"In addition to ADHD core symptoms, patients often experience associated symptoms like emotional dysregulation, sleep disturbances or low self-esteem, as well as suffering from comorbid disorders, particularly depressive episodes, substance use and anxiety disorders," she explained.

The latest research suggests that while pharmacotherapy has been shown to be highly effective, many adults with ADHD remain untreated.

"New pharmacological treatment approaches not only target ADHD core symptoms but also co-morbid psychiatric disorders like alcohol use disorders or social phobia," Sobanksi noted. "However, in the European Union only two medications are approved for de novo use in adult ADHD."

"Available data from a cross national suggest that most adults with ADHD in Europe are untreated," she added.

The findings were presented Monday at the 26th ECNP Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

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