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Can Acne Be A Symptom Of ADHD?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

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.

The results of the study showed that compared to other skin conditions, acne was twice as likely to be associated with ADHD. This number accounts for several possible confounding factors, like age, sex, stimulant medications, comorbid anxiety or depressive disorders, and atopic dermatitis.

These findings are supported by a different study published in Pediatric Dermatology, which found that acne was often found in participants with ADHD2. However, this study did not include a control group and thus may not be the most reliable source. Finally, one other study conducted in 2016 found that there was no connection between acne and ADHD3. So far, the research on ADHD and acne is inconclusive, but future research is vital to better understanding acne, ADHD, and the brain-skin connection.

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 symptoms4, which are difficulty regulating attention, intense sensitivity to rejection, and poor working memory.

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.

Take It with A Grain Of Salt

As interesting as it is to consider the possibility of a relationship between acne and ADHD, it’s important to remember that the research is largely inconclusive and any association 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 Gupta study are considered 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 exists.

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.

References:

  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. Kaya Erdogan H., Fıdan S.T., Bulur I., Karapınar T., Saracoglu Z.N. Evaluation of cutaneous findings in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a preliminary study. Pediatric Dermatology. 2017;34(2):e93-e94.
  3. 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.
  4. Wilens T.E., Spencer T.J. Understanding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder from childhood to adulthood. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2010;122(5):97-109.
  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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