A new study has found a disturbing link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in women and serious mental and health conditions. According to the research conducted by a team from the University of Toronto in Canada, one-third of women with ADHD have anxiety disorders, and almost half of this group has considered suicide. The finding may cause us to re-evaluate the severity of ADHD in women and the true scope of its effects.

For the study, now published online in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development, UT researchers examined a representative sample of 3,908 Canadian women aged 20 to 39, who had taken part in the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health. Of this original group, 107 reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Although the group who had been diagnosed with ADHD was far smaller than those without the condition, their rates of mental health conditions were alarmingly high. For example, 46 percent of women with ADHD had seriously considered suicide, 36 percent had generalized anxiety disorder, 31 percent had a major depressive disorder, and 39 percent had a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. According to lead study author, Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, these figures are “disturbingly high.”

In addition to mental health troubles, women with ADHD were also more prone to other health conditions. For example, 28 percent reported experiencing physical pain that prohibited them from certain activities. This was only reported in nine percent of those without ADHD. In addition, insomnia and smoking were also much higher in women with ADHD when compared to those without the condition. To make matters worse, the study found that one in three of the women (37 percent) with ADHD reported they had difficulty meeting basic expenses such as food, shelter and clothing due to their inadequate household income. For women without ADHD, only 13 percent had this shortfall.

ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by a number of traits related to having trouble staying focused; as a result, individuals with this condition often struggle with impulsivity and restlessness. For example, according to Medical News Today, people with ADHD may find it more difficult to control what they’re doing or saying, and are less able to control how much physical activity is appropriate for a particular situation compared to somebody without ADHD. In adults, this condition can lead to unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, and low self-esteem.

Adult ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy), and also treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD, The Mayo Clinic reported.

The condition is mainly considered a problem for young boys and men, but this report suggests we need to pay special attention to women with ADHD, who may suffer severe consequences.

“In light of these problems, it is important that primary health care providers are particularly vigilant in monitoring and treating their female patients with ADHD," explained co-author Senyo Agbeyaka, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, in a recent statement.

Source: Fuller-Thomson E, Lewis DA, Agbeyaka S. Attention Deficit Disorder Casts a Long Shadow: Findings From Population Based Study of Adult Women with Self-reported ADHD. Child: Care, Health and Development. 2016.