What Causes ADHD?

“Let Me Tell You How ADHD Runs in My Family”

In a recent survey, ADDitude readers shared stories of how ADHD has run in their families for generations. Diagnosed or undiagnosed, the symptoms were often undeniable — yet sometimes only recognized out loud following the evaluation of a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild.

Family with ADHD

ADHD is genetic — not always, but quite often. But due to gender stereotypes, poor diagnostic tests, and shame many of our parents, grandparents, and beyond were never formally diagnosed. In fact, the demographic with the greatest increase in new ADHD diagnoses today is mothers in their 30s and 40s. The self-discovery continues.

Below, read the stories of ADDitude readers who trace a long history of ADHD — diagnosed or otherwise — in their family tree, and see if you recognize any similarities with your wild, wonderful brood. Add your story in the Comments section below.

“My mother, seven aunts and uncles, my grandmother, and about 8 cousins all have ADHD. I am, of course, guessing on the extended family because they lived in an era when ADHD did not have a diagnosis. As a result, many of them were astronomically creative, but were held back in school to repeat grades multiple times, and either didn’t finish grade school or high school (if they even went), and were repeatedly told they were lazy, unintelligent, underachievers. Many members of my family painted (I had an uncle who reproduced Piccasso works for fun), wrote novels (my grandmother wrote a novel comparable to Gone with the Wind and while a publisher begged her for it, she was convinced it wasn’t any good and burned it), and were gourmet cooks (my aunt had an extremely successful preserves business for 20 years). My cousins are computer programmers, my mother should have been a doctor, and I am both an artist and writer finishing my first novel while completing a degree in anthropology.” — Beth

“My grandson was diagnosed with ADHD several years ago. Then his two siblings. Their doctor also diagnosed my daughter with ADHD. Finally my daughter suggested I get tested and, sure enough, I have ADHD. Three generations! Whenever we visit them, it’s like a three ring circus. Because of the chaos while we’re watching TV, my son-in-law turns on closed captioning so we can follow whatever is on the TV.” — Katharine

“I have two parents, one grandparent, and two siblings who have ADHD. My spouse has ADHD also. My family members with ADHD are so understanding. It is relieving when they don’t get upset at my daily ADHD affectations. My parents and grandparents have dealt with the same issues I have today, but have overcome them or found away around them. That is so encouraging. Also, Id have to say, out of all of my family members, those with ADHD are the ones I am the closest to and the ones I have learned the most from.” — Kat

[“How I Learned to Love My Unpredictable ADHD Family”]

“My daughter and her father both have ADHD – Inattentive type. He had a long history of being fussed at, standing in the corner, and being punished as a child; he struggled through school even into college. As a Speech Language Pathologist, I wanted better for my daughter. She began working through the Smart but Scattered curriculum at age 5 with her play therapist. We did GeneSight testing and began meds at that time, in combination with supplements. I wish a better life for my girl and can see the benefits of our interventions in her self-esteem.” — Court

“My father had it; my two sisters have it; my former husband (the father of my two children, who also have it) has it. There is even evidence that my great-grandmother had it. When my grandmother died, my father never got around to closing out her estate. When he died 10 years later, the attorneys had to close her estate before they could even start work on his. They found uncashed checks worth thousands of dollars. He was a brilliant surgeon, but his ADHD required a lot of help from his office staff. Unfortunately he didn’t ask for help with Grandma’s estate.” — Mary

“My dad had undiagnosed ADD. It was obvious in how he would randomly start a house remodeling project but stop that to start building a new shed but never finish that either. He started a ranch for a bit then sold all the livestock out of no where. My brother is diagnosed autistic with ADHD, but he functions really well — maybe even better than me. I knew something was a bit off with me my whole life and was I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD in 2017 at the age of 33. Life makes so much more sense to me now. I’m so relived to know why I jump from idea to idea and have a hard time finishing projects. I’m also super sensitive to criticism and will get anxious and withdrawal if I feel someone is judging me.” — Erin

[Free Download: Understanding Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria]

“My paternal grandmother used to tell me how useless her mother was at looking after the house and managing money. The same grandmother used to have periods of hyperactivity — if she was baking, she’d make 100 cupcakes instead of one batch. My father was time blind and had periods of hyperfocus where he would work for days at a time. I am time blind and procrastination is the bane of my life.” — Ali

“My father, age 77, has never been diagnosed but we are all certain he has ADHD. My son was 10 and daughter was 15 when they were diagnosed. I was 51 and in my second year of law school when I finally agreed that *maybe* I had it, then was tested & diagnosed. Because of misinformation about how ADHD manifests, I thought that there could be no way I had it since I was a top student all my life. My daughter’s diagnosis taught me about inattentive type ADHD, which helped lead me to acceptance of my own diagnosis. After educating myself, I’ve come to recognize the many, many ways I had learned to deal with aspects of ADHD in order to function in a neurotypical world. With our diagnoses, medications, and therapy we are all now living our best lives. And my mom, who has been with my dad since she was 14 and he 15, now has a deeper understanding of why my father does what he does.” — Christina

“I thought my and my sibling’s ADHD came from my dad’s side, but as we’ve gone through my maternal grandmother’s things after she passed there are a ton of little indications. The unfinished projects. The hectic paperwork. The duplicates of things bought multiple times. She was from the depression era, so she kept everything, but the little bits of chaos strewn about her things has led me to wonder if it’s also on my mother’s side.” — an ADDitude reader

“ADHD is most definitely genetic. My Mother had ADHD. I have it. My children have it. My grandchildren have it and my great grandchildren have it.” — J. Barron

ADHD in the Family: Next Steps

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