Is adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder a valid diagnosis in the presence of high IQ?

K. M. Antshel, S. V. Faraone, K. Maglione, A. Doyle, R. Fried, L. Seidman, J. Biederman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background. Because the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in higher education settings is rapidly becoming a contentious issue, particularly among patients with high IQs, we sought to assess the validity of diagnosing ADHD in high-IQ adults and to further characterize the clinical features associated with their ADHD. Method. We operationalized high IQ as having a full-scale IQ≥120. We identified 53 adults with a high IQ who did not have ADHD and 64 adults with a high IQ who met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Groups did not differ on IQ, socio-economic status or gender. Results. High-IQ adults with ADHD reported a lower quality of life, had poorer familial and occupational functioning, and had more functional impairments, including more speeding tickets, accidents and arrests. Major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder diagnoses were higher in high-IQ adults with ADHD. All other psychiatric co-morbidities, including antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse, did not differ between the two high-IQ groups. ADHD was more prevalent in first-degree relatives of adults with ADHD relative to controls. Conclusions. Our data suggest that adults with ADHD and a high IQ display patterns of functional impairments, familiality and psychiatric co-morbidities that parallel those found in the average-IQ adult ADHD population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1335
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • IQ
  • Impairment
  • Intelligent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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