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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Trauma


          The month of October is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness month. As systems and the people who make up those systems become more trauma-informed and trauma-aware, there is more attention drawn to the intersection and differences between this disorder and trauma. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects adults and children. ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders amongst children ages 2-17 (Data and statistics about ADHD 2021). Presenting symptoms for ADHD in children can include difficulties focusing, fidgeting, talking too much, forgetting things, being seemingly careless, in addition to many others. There are three main types of ADHD, each defined by their presenting symptoms. The three types are: Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, and Combined Presentation (CDC, 2021). A national parent survey conducted in 2016 identified there have been 6.1 million children that have received a diagnosis of ADHD (Data and statistics about ADHD 2021). The treatment modalities currently include medication, behavioral interventions, and a combination of both.

          Did you know that symptoms and behaviors related to traumatic experiences in children often overlap with the presenting symptoms of ADHD? Some of the symptoms that are shared by ADHD and traumatic experiences and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) include difficulty concentrating, restlessness, forgetfulness or poor memory, impulsivity, sleep disturbances, and more (Heckman, 2021). Over the last few years, our human services professions have moved toward practicing in a more trauma-informed manner considering one’s past experiences, including traumatic experiences. Recent studies explore the possibility, of the 6.1 million children diagnosed with ADHD, some had experienced traumatic events contributing to their symptoms and behaviors. ADHD and trauma can look very similar, and children can be living with the constant stress of both ADHD and a cycle of traumatic experiences. To improve this co-occurring neurological dysregulation, both conditions must be treated. This means that a person’s trauma and their ADHD symptoms must be treated alongside each other. Most treatment plans focus on utilizing medication along with behavioral health therapies for individuals with ADHD and trauma. Medication is utilized for individuals with ADHD & trauma to treat the co-occurring symptoms that are impacting the individual’s ability to concentrate and focus for the behavioral therapies to be more successful (Heckman, 2021).  The key focus for treating both ADHD and trauma simultaneously are treatment modalities that focus on the individual’s executive functioning (Heckman, 2021). Without tending to both, the neurological dysregulation from one or the other will remain, and the individual will continue experiencing symptoms. We look forward to seeing the growth and progress that our people serving professions make towards successfully working with children and adults with co-morbidities such as ADHD and trauma.  


CDC. (2021, September 23). What is ADHD? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 23). Data and statistics about ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from

Editors, A. D. D. (2021, June 25). ADHD statistics: New add facts and research. ADDitude. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from

Heckman, K. J. (2021, June 4). ADHD and trauma: Untangling causes, symptoms & treatments. ADDitude. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from

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