About the Risk Behaviors of Attention Deficit Disorder

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that as of 2006, doctors diagnosed 4.5 million people between the ages of 5 and 17 with attention deficit disorder. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that the term “attention deficit disorder” (ADD) is used interchangeably with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the term used by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Besides having inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive symptoms, attention deficit disorder patients may also participate in risk behaviors.

But what is a risk behavior? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension describes them as “those that can have adverse effects on the overall development and well-being of youth, or that might prevent them from future successes and development. This includes behaviors that cause immediate physical injury (e.g., fighting), as well as behaviors with cumulative negative effects (e.g., substance use).” Several risk behaviors of attention deficit disorder exist, which may cause long-term problems if they are not addressed and treated.

Substance Abuse

One risk behavior of attention deficit disorder is substance abuse. The MayoClinic.com points out that children with attention deficit disorder have a larger risk of abusing drugs or alcohol than their peers without the disorder. Several factors may affect why a patient with attention deficit disorder abuses substances. One reason is untreated attention deficit disorder. Nicole Crawford, author of the Monitor on Psychology article “ADHD: a women’s issue,” notes that girls with attention deficit disorder who are untreated have a risk of smoking during middle school and high school and substance abuse during adulthood. Untreated female patients may also have eating disorders in adulthood.

Another possible cause of substance abuse is a co-morbid condition, such as conduct disorder, which occurs in 1 to 4 percent of people between the ages of 9 and 17, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Attention deficit disorder patients who also have conduct disorder participate in behaviors such as fighting or stealing. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) adds that children and adolescents with conduct disorder have an increased risk of alcohol or drug use.

Sexual Activity

Risk behaviors of attention deficit disorder also include sexual activity. Crawford points out that risky sexual behavior in female patients may result in teen pregnancy. One study conducted at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center notes that teenagers with certain mental health disorders, such as attention deficit disorder, are more likely to have risky sexual behaviors. ScienceDaily reports that teenage attention deficit disorder patients have a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases due to increased sexual activity.

Car Accidents

The risky behavior in attention deficit disorder patients may also result in motor vehicle problems. The NIMH explains that teenage patients with the disorder have four times as many car accidents compared to their peers without the disorder. These accidents may result in severe injuries. The NIMH adds that in addition to the accidents, teenage patients receive speeding tickets three times more often than teenagers without attention deficit disorder.


CDC: ADHD, Data and Statistics


University of Maryland Medical Center: Attention Deficit Disorder – Children’s Health Guide


University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: High-Risk Behaviors Among Youth


MayoClinic.com: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Complications


Crawford, N. (2003). ADHD: a women’s issue. Monitor on Psychology, 34(2), pp.28


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Child and Adolescent Mental Illness and Drug Abuse Statistics


NIMH: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


ScienceDaily: Certain Psychiatric Disorders Linked With Risky Sexual Behavior in Teens, Study Finds