Dangerous Thrills: ADHD and Risky Behavior
It's no surprise to most people that risky behaviors and ADHD go hand in hand. These behaviors often appear in the context of sex, gambling, and drug use. However, the news isn't all bad. Some risky behaviors may diminish over time, and having an ADHD diagnosis and -- more importantly -- a treatment plan can help people manage their condition and avoid engaging in potentially dangerous or harmful situations.
If you or someone you love has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may already be quite aware that people with this condition often engage in risky behaviors. Indeed, research has confirmed the link between ADHD and risky behaviors.
What often starts in early childhood as taking unnecessary physical risks (like climbing on top of swing sets) can mature into even scarier situations. A little daredevil may grow into an adult who partakes in risky sex, easily succumbs to drug and alcohol addiction, or blows paycheck after paycheck on reckless gambling.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at these three risky behaviors and how they relate to ADHD.
First, the bad news: Studies have confirmed that young people (both men and women) with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior compared to those without ADHD. What is risky sexual behavior? Each study uses its own definition, but generally, things like not using condoms, having sex at a younger-than-average age, and having many sexual partners are considered risky sexual behaviors.
Other studies have shown that people with strange (and often societally unacceptable) sexual tastes are likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD in childhood. Similar results were also seen in people with impulsive or compulsive sexual problems, including those who find their otherwise normal, "garden-variety" sexual behaviors and thoughts difficult to control, such as sex addicts.
The news isn't all bad, though. Some research suggests that not all people with ADHD may be at risk for engaging in reckless sexual behavior. One study of adolescents with ADHD suggested that only those with ADHD in addition to certain other disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, or who use marijuana are at an increased risk. Studies have also shown that the risk for such sexual behavior is higher in unmedicated individuals compared with those who are taking medication for ADHD.