College Students with ADHD More Likely to be Anxious, Depressed

479706173College students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are much more likely to experience depression and anxiety than students without ADHD, according to preliminary findings from the first year of a five-year NIMH funded longitudinal study, presented this morning at APA’s Annual Convention.

Researchers examined data from more than 450 college freshman with and without ADHD at three universities and found that:

  • Students with ADHD report much higher levels of depression and anxiety — near 30 percent — compared with students without the disorder, whose numbers are closer to 5 percent for depression and anxiety.
  • Those with ADHD are also more likely to have lower grade-point averages than the comparison group, perhaps due to poorer organizational skills and fewer academic coping strategies.
  • Students with ADHD were much more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, including having multiple sexual partners and unprotected sexual intercourse.

With an increasing number of students with ADHD attending college, addressing these disparities isn’t just a challenge for the nation’s higher education system – it’s a psychosocial problem with major public health ramifications, said Arthur Anastopoulos, PhD, the study’s lead investigator and a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

“I don’t think getting extra time on tests or doling out stimulant prescriptions is going to fix this,” Anastopoulous said. “We have to get the message out to parents that they need to start actively preparing their high school children to take more ownership of the disorder and the responsibilities that they will be faced with in college.”

4 thoughts on “College Students with ADHD More Likely to be Anxious, Depressed

  1. Agreed. Perhaps in the session or published study there are some recommendations. Smart kids with ADHD are particularly at risk…we need to move away from meds and focus more on behavioral interventions and strategies. The pills are useless without this

  2. Speaking as a college student with ADHD, one important reason we suffer from anxiety and depression is that many professors and peers do not accept ADHD as a “real condition in grown ups”, so once again we find ourselves being shamed for our learning differences. Even in the best circumstances, we are unsure whether we should out ourselves by seeking reasonable accommodations, or by trying to talk to our instructors about our needs. All this amounts to a feeling of isolation and underperformance, which is often the core of anxiety and depression.

    • Mandy, I agree. Kind of a catch-22. The educational system gets very cookie cutter sometimes, just to help it operate at some capacity. It can get bogged down with bureaucratic rules that work against the learning process for everyone, let alone for those with ADHD.

      It’s hard to come up with a general answer whether students should speak up to their college teachers about their ADHD. It depends on the teacher and the student, and other factors.
      But I will say, whether you bring up ADHD or not, I think it is always worth reaching out to make some kind of connection with teachers. If they can put a face to your name, it helps. It also shows that you care, and that is a huge advantage.
      We’ve seen this very thing make the difference of a letter grade to our clients!

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