Windsor Counselling Services

Lindsay Laing, MA, RSW, RP, ICCAC, TITC-CT

ADHD and Trauma


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can have a significant impact on an individual's daily life. While the causes of ADHD are not yet fully understood, recent research suggests that trauma may play a significant role in the development of ADHD. Dr. Gabor Mate, a renowned Canadian physician, and author, has extensively researched the connection between ADHD and trauma and has shed light on this crucial topic.

Dr. Mate's research suggests that early childhood trauma, such as neglect, physical, or emotional abuse, can cause changes in the developing brain, leading to ADHD symptoms. Trauma can affect the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions such as impulse control, attention, and working memory. In children who experience trauma, the prefrontal cortex may not develop fully, leading to ADHD symptoms. Moreover, trauma can also affect the brain's reward system, leading to a higher risk of developing addictive behaviors such as substance abuse, gambling, or binge eating, which are commonly associated with ADHD.

One of the key points that Dr. Mate makes is that many children with ADHD have experienced trauma, whether it be from a single incident or a long-term stressor. The trauma can affect the child's brain development and lead to ADHD symptoms that persist into adulthood. However, ADHD is often misdiagnosed as a stand-alone disorder, and the underlying trauma is not addressed. In such cases, medication or therapy may not be as effective in treating ADHD symptoms.

Dr. Mate advocates for a trauma-informed approach to treating ADHD. This approach recognizes that the symptoms of ADHD may be a coping mechanism for the child or adult who has experienced trauma. It focuses on addressing the underlying trauma and providing support to help the individual build resilience and coping skills. Dr. Mate suggests that addressing trauma can have a positive impact on ADHD symptoms and improve overall mental health.

In conclusion, Dr. Gabor Mate's research highlights the critical link between ADHD and trauma. Trauma can have a significant impact on brain development, leading to ADHD symptoms. As such, a trauma-informed approach to treating ADHD can be more effective than traditional medication or therapy. By addressing the underlying trauma and providing support, individuals with ADHD can develop resilience and coping skills, leading to better overall mental health. It is essential that healthcare professionals, educators, and caregivers understand the connection between ADHD and trauma and work together to provide appropriate care and support to those affected.

Reference: Mate, G. (2018). Scattered: How attention deficit disorder originates and what you can do about it. Penguin Random House.