Traumatic Brain Injury May Cause ADHD in Adults

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A Traumatic Brain Injury can cause problems with memory, balance, and other neurological abilities. But could it actually cause ADHD? A new study says it could.

Traumatic Brain Injuries affect 2.5 million Americans every year according to the Centers for Disease Control. While some minor concussions can pass quickly, others TBI patients can suffer long-lasting disability. These can include confusion, memory problems, and now, attention  issues.

Researchers in Ontario, Canada, surveyed 3,993 adults participating in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) Monitor, an ongoing survey of patients’ physical health, mental health, and substance abuse. Co-principal investigator Robert Mann said:

“These new data suggest a significant association between ADHD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). . . . Adults with TBI are more than twice as likely than those without to report symptoms of ADHD,”

Of those patients with a history of Traumatic Brain Injury, 5.9 percent had previously been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Another 6.6 percent would later test positive for adult ADHD after the injury. Lead author Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, explains:

“This is not surprising because some of the most persistent consequences of TBI include ADHD-like symptoms, such as memory and attention impairment, deficits in executive functions such as planning and organization, processing consonants and vowels and impulsive behavior.”

Another study recently showed that even mild concussions can cause ADHD in children. And the problem seems to build on itself, since ADHD can increase the likelihood of a fall and subsequent repeat traumatic brain injury.

The researchers behind this most recent study are encouraging treating physicians to ask about traumatic brain injury when assessing adult ADHD patients, because TBI can cause psycho-neurological changes that make ADHD and balance problems more prevalent.

Many people consider ADHD a minor inconvenience or a childhood malady that kids will outgrow eventually. Really, ADHD can interfere with children and adults’ ability to focus on their work. It can make them irritable, short-tempered, and prone to emotional overreaction. It can also make them impulsive. This can make it difficult for TBI patients with ADHD symptoms to relate to friends and family or maintain their professional careers.

These more subtle changes to a TBI patient’s behavior and mannerisms can often go undiagnosed and untreated, leaving the patient and his or her family struggling to explain why the patient can no longer keep a job, or maintain friendships.

After a traumatic brain injury, it is vital for a patient to go through a full behavioral and psychological assessment. Once the changes are identified, occupational therapists and other treatment providers can teach TBI patients coping mechanisms and prescribe behavior-correcting medication that will get the patient back to work.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team represent traumatic brain injury victims of auto accidents. If you or someone you know has suffered a serious brain injury as the result of a car crash, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.