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Can Acne Be A Symptom Of ADHD?

To this day, most dermatologists and doctors agree that there is no single cause or cure for acne, although there are many identifiable contributors, exacerbators and agitators of the infliction.  But recent studies may be indicating that individuals prone to acne are significantly more likely to also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) than those with other types of skin-related problems.

Study showed that those who had acne were likely to be diagnosed with ADHD

Studying The Link Between Acne And ADHD

Dr. Madhuka A. Gupta, MD, of the University of Western Ontario in London, performed a study with her colleagues to examine1 the possibility of a link between these two health issues. They collected and examined data from skin condition-related doctor appointments in a 13-year period, from 1995 to 2008, looking for visits that also involved ADHD-related appointments.

Of the nearly 950 million visits examined, over 100 million of them involved a diagnosis for acne. Almost 175 million involved a diagnosis for atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. Atopic dermatitis sufferers were chosen as the comparison group since both acne and eczema start in childhood, making them good comparative candidates to examine the link between these conditions and acne.

The results of the study showed that those who had acne were 6.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who suffered from other skin conditions. Those with acne were also 5.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who were suffering from atopic eczema.

How To Find Out If Your Acne Is Caused By ADHD

First of all, Gupta recommends that those suffering from acne should be screened for ADHD particularly if they complain about the classic symptoms2, which are usually having trouble paying attention and the tendency to be impulsive.

In fact, these classic symptoms may be the only distinguishable symptoms between those who suffer from ADHD-related acne and regular acne. The children and teenagers who suffer from acne and ADHD externally look no different than those who do not have ADHD-related acne. The only way to find the correlation between the two afflictions is determined by whether they admit to having trouble concentrating in school3 or not.

Take It with A Grain Of Salt

As interesting as this study may be, some researchers suggest that this relationship between acne and ADHD may be purely coincidental. This is because ADHD and acne are both very common among teenagers, and as such, those who suffer from both might just be unlucky.

The findings from the study are considered as preliminary and still need to undergo the process of “peer review,” where other experts weigh in on the subject and the results to confirm whether or not this link really exists4.

Nonetheless, acne can be a difficult and damaging experience for teens5 on a psychological and emotional level. So, ADHD or not, acne in teenagers shouldn’t be overlooked as a minor problem.


  1. Gupta M.A., Gupta A.K., Vujcic B. Increased Frequency of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in acne versus dermatologic controls: Analysis of an epidemiologic database from the US. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2014;25(2):115-118.
  2. Wilens T.E., Spencer T.J. Understanding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder from childhood to adulthood. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2010;122(5):97-109.
  3. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Overview. Informed Health Online, Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare. 2006.
  4. Bilgic A., Bilgic Ö., Çolak, R.S., Altinyazar, H.C. Relationship between acne vulgaris and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in a clinical sample of women. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2016;91(2):250-252.
  5. Dunn L.K., O’Neill J.L., Feldman S.R. Acne in adolescents: Quality of life, self-esteem, mood, and psychological disorders. Dermatology Online Journal. 2011;17(1):1.
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