What causes ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition, meaning it is caused by how the brain and nervous system develop as someone grows up. It is unknown exactly what causes ADHD to develop but there is evidence to show that it runs in families and can also be influenced by the environment of someone’s upbringing.

ADHD and families

ADHD is strongly genetic, with some studies estimating a 9-times chance of a first-degree relative of someone who has ADHD also having ADHD. This means that if someone is diagnosed or questioning if they have ADHD, usually a biological sibling, parent or even family lineage with ADHD traits can be found; the exact rate is unknown but a minimum is thought to be ~32% and a maximum is thought to be around ~72%.

In real terms, this could mean that if someone is diagnosed with ADHD, more than half of their biological siblings, parents and children can be expected to also have the condition. In ADHD twin studies, up to 90% of twins share the condition regardless of the environment they are raised in, meaning ADHD is incredibly heritable. For comparison, ADHD is more heritable than rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Bipolar Disorder and multiple sclerosis, to name a few other partially genetic conditions.

Why does ADHD exist?

An important thing to remember is that ADHD need not be an obstacle to leading a successful life. In fact, many people have speculated that ADHD evolved in humans due to conferring advantages to individuals and society at different points in human history – including now. In general, neurodiversity and a diversity of different thinking styles may have been as essential for human survival as biodiversity and a diversity of different species has been for life on Earth to survive.

ADHD in culture

Despite many misconceptions and stereotyped media portrayals of ADHD, UK culture unknowingly celebrates the talents and thinking styles of people with ADHD in many ways.

Successful people with ADHD are seen in many areas of society, particularly at the top of companies, the sciences, the arts, sports, entrepreneurship and technology development. Really, any area that is challenging, fun and pressured can be a great environment for someone with ADHD.

Some examples of ADHD celebrities include:

  • Michael Phelps
  • Jim Carrey
  • Rory Bremner
  • Billy Connolly
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Thomas Edison
  • Howie Mandel
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Albert Einstein
  • Will.i.am
  • Britney Spears
  • Prof John Gurdon
  • Cher
  • Jamie Oliver
  • Brendon Urie
  • Sir Richard Branson
  • Scott Kelly
  • Walt Disney

Additionally, it can be comforting to know that many stories are told that celebrate ADHD characters, or characters with lots of ADHD traits. Some of the fictional ADHD characters that embed UK culture include:

  • Bart and Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
  • Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)
  • Percy Jackson (Percy Jackson)
  • The 11th Doctor (Doctor Who)
  • Tony Stark/Iron Man (Iron Man)
  • Matilda (Rohl Dahl)
  • Phil and Luke Dunphy (Modern Family)
  • Maria von Trapp (The Sound Of Music)
  • Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With The Wind)
  • Winnie The Pooh and Tigger (Winne The Pooh)
  • Dory (Finding Nemo)
  • Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire)
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