Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in ASD

  • Luana Salerno
  • J. J. Sandra Kooij


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by core symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. ADHD has been considered for a long time as a childhood condition, fading as children grew up. Instead, ADHD changes its clinical presentation over the lifespan, but persists in most cases in adulthood with its associated impairment.

It is only since 2013, with the release of DSM-5, that it is possible to diagnose ADHD in the presence of ASD. This change was based on studies performed in children, adolescents, and adults that found high comorbidity rates between ASD and ADHD.

Studies investigating the co-occurrence of such disorders at a genetic, at structural and functional neuroimaging levels indicate that they share common genetic risk factors, involve similar biological mechanisms, and affect the same brain regions.

The co-existence of both disorders causes a significant burden. Individuals with ASD presenting ADHD symptomatology exhibit a more severe phenotype, with more autistic traits, greater impairment in adaptive behavior, and increased risk for developing additional psychiatric conditions.

Pharmacotherapeutic treatments for ADHD, such as methylphenidate and atomoxetine, have been studied in individuals with ADHD+ASD, demonstrating efficacy in decreasing the severity of ADHD symptoms, although with lower effect sizes than in people with only ADHD.

The diagnosis of ADHD is established clinically and requires the use of rating scales as well as clinical interviews for avoiding the risk of misdiagnosis.

The stigma surrounding individuals with ADHD is huge, therefore it is necessary to increase awareness about this disorder among both the public and healthcare professionals, in order to reduce the barriers that patients face to get access to proper diagnosis and treatment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luana Salerno
    • 1
  • J. J. Sandra Kooij
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.INS—Institute of NeuroscienceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Amsterdam University Medical Center, VUMcAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Expertise Center Adult ADHD, PsyQThe HagueThe Netherlands

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