Study Finds Association Between ADHD, Brain Injuries

Man wearing a hard hat has a headacheResearchers have uncovered a strong association between adults who have experienced a traumatic brain injury and who also have attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can range from minor concussions to head injuries severe enough to be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these injuries are common, accounting for 1.3 million emergency room visits, 275,000 hospitalizations, and 52,000 deaths each year.

Are TBI and ADHD Connected?

Researchers used data collected by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Monitor. This ongoing, cross-sectional telephone survey provided data on nearly 4,000 Ontario adults. Researchers asked participants if they had ever experienced a TBI, characterizing it as a head injury that resulted in either an overnight hospitalization or at least a five-minute loss of consciousness. Researchers also asked about ADHD, relying on a mix of self-reported diagnoses and scores from the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS).

Among adults who reported experiencing a TBI, 5.9% also reported a previous ADHD diagnosis. Another 6.6% screened positive for ADHD using the ASRS assessment during the phone survey. The study’s authors discovered adults with a history of a TBI are more than twice as likely as those without brain injuries to report experiencing ADHD symptoms.

TBI can cause a host of neurological symptoms, including changes in behavior, mood, and impulse control. These injuries are also becoming more common in industrialized nations. By 2020, TBI could be the third-leading contributor to disease and disability in the world, according to a prediction from the World Health Organization. Heart disease and depression currently hold the top two spots.

This study was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. Previous research has found a similar connection between TBI and ADHD in children.

Know TBI Symptoms, Seek Immediate Treatment

The symptoms of a TBI do not always seem severe, and many people with head injuries may not seek immediate treatment. If you experience a head injury, seek immediate medical care, as prompt treatment can reduce the risk of long-term complications.

The CDC outlines four domains in which a TBI can affect functioning:

  • Thinking and remembering: People with a TBI may have trouble processing their thoughts, remembering things, concentrating, or learning new information.
  • Physical health: A TBI can cause fuzzy or blurred vision, chronic headaches, exhaustion, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Emotion and mood: A TBI may change the way a person reacts to stress, or it may cause depression, anxiety, and irritability.
  • Sleep: Many people with a TBI experience changes in sleep habits, including getting too much or too little sleep.


  1. Get the stats on traumatic brain injury in the United States [PDF]. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Retrieved from
  2. Preventing traumatic brain injury. (2014, March 17). Retrieved from
  3. St. Michael’s Hospital. (2015, August 20). Study finds association between people who have had a traumatic brain injury, ADHD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • cal


    August 22nd, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    How would you not know that you have sustained a TBI? I mean, this seems like something that would definitely be checked out if there was any suspicion that this had occurred.

  • Marianne


    August 24th, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    I guess that I could understand this if it is something that shows up in an adult later in life, that there is some kind of injury that occurred that has now made this appear and even be diagnosed in them. What I do not understand though is that there are very young children who are being diagnosed with ADHD and there has never been any indication in them that there would have been an injury. So there could be separate issues at play in these very different cases.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.