Last updated:

February 19, 2024


 min read

Childhood trauma and ADHD

Discover the intricate relationship between childhood trauma and ADHD, unraveling their intertwined symptoms and exploring effective treatment strategies with Rocket Health's culturally sensitive and expert-led online therapy in India.

Reviewed by
Sneha Toppo
Written by
Anushka Paliwal

ADHD and childhood trauma are related, and vice versa. They have similar symptoms that are frequently misinterpreted and misdiagnosed. Additionally, each makes the other's symptoms more severe. These are only a few of the reasons why, when diagnosing and treating ADHD in children, professionals need to learn more about trauma to adopt an informed approach.

Not only can children who have experienced violent, abusive, or neglected situations resemble the signs of ADHD, but these behaviours may continue into adulthood as well. Symptoms could include impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and difficulty focusing.

Childhood trauma and ADHD can cast long shadows on one's life, and understanding their intricate relationship is crucial. In the context of India, where cultural dynamics add unique layers to mental health discussions, addressing these issues becomes even more critical. This blog aims to unravel the complexities surrounding childhood trauma and ADHD, delving into the disorder, its common types, and offering comprehensive insights into effective treatment strategies. Let's embark on a journey to comprehend, address, and find solutions to these challenges.

What is childhood trauma?

These are events that happen to children (those under the age of eighteen) that are frightening, violent, dangerous, or possibly life-threatening. These are also known as early life stress or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Trauma during childhood can result from events that you experience, witness, or learn about happening to others. Trauma can affect anyone. However, some groups—such as Black, Hispanic, or Latina women and youth—are more prone to suffer from ACEs.

A few instances of traumatic occurrences are:

  • Abuse and neglect on the physical, sexual, or mental levels
  • Witnessing someone harm your mother
  • Living with someone who uses drugs or has mental illness
  • Losing a parent through divorce or death
  • Having a relative imprisoned

It can also include:

  • Growing up poor
  • Living in a violent area
  • Experiencing systemic racism or discrimination
  • Being in a bad car accident
  • Having a life-threatening illness

Children who have experienced trauma may exhibit signs of anxiety, agitation, nervousness, and alertness, which can be confused with ADHD. Inattention in children with trauma may also make them dissociate, which can look like a lack of focus — another hallmark symptom of ADHD. The fact that ADHD and childhood traumatic stress frequently co-occur with other conditions like mood disorders, anxiety, and learning disabilities make it all much harder to tease apart.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that interfere with daily functioning. There are three main subtypes of ADHD, with individuals presenting as predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and a combined presentation, which involves features of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Symptoms of inattentiveness include difficulty sustaining attention, making careless mistakes, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted. Symptoms of hyperactivity manifest as excessive fidgeting, restlessness, and an inability to stay seated. Impulsivity is evident through hasty decision-making, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting one's turn.

ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood and can persist into adolescence and adulthood. However, this does not mean that an ADHD diagnosis cannot be made in adulthood. While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, identified risk factors include environmental and genetic factors. These risk factors include premature birth, low birth weight, maternal smoking during pregnancy, family history of ADHD, family conflicts, and even socio-economic status. 

Comparing ADHD and Trauma in Adults

According to studies, adults with a diagnosis of ADHD are more likely  to also suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD than those without it. That's a mood disorder that might arise following a stressful experience. Trauma symptoms may be persistent in a person with PTSD or they may come and go.

The same brain regions are affected by both trauma and ADHD, which makes diagnosing ADHD symptoms in youngsters more challenging. Areas of overlap include:

  • Inability to focus and study in school
  • Distraction
  • Incoherence
  • Often seem not to listen
  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness

ADHD and Trauma: Assessment & Treatment 

Consult your physician if you have experienced trauma as a child. They might not think to ask you about it first. Request a referral to a therapist who focuses on treating traumatic stress disorders from them. They will assist in creating a personalised treatment plan for you.

ADHD and traumatic stress symptoms can be identified and managed with the assistance of a mental health expert. You may need medication, talk therapy, or a mix of both.

Processing the trauma with professional help is an essential treatment for those with PTSD. Since the symptoms of PTSD and ADHD can overlap, it is important to consider the full picture of a person’s background and what they have experienced to diagnose any condition.


Understanding the connection between childhood trauma and ADHD is like solving a puzzle where the pieces often look similar. These challenges, with their intertwined symptoms, affect not only kids but also grown-ups. In India, where we have our own way of talking about mental health, it's crucial to unravel these complexities.

Recognizing that trauma can look a lot like ADHD is important. It's like knowing the difference between two friends who share some traits but have their own stories. By understanding how trauma and ADHD can affect the same parts of our brain, we can find better ways to help.

Embark on a journey towards mental well-being with Rocket Health, where culturally sensitive and expert-led online therapy awaits. If you or someone you know is navigating the challenges of childhood trauma or ADHD, seek support from qualified professionals who understand the nuances of these experiences. Rocket Health stands as a beacon of hope, offering accessible and personalised mental health support tailored to the unique needs of individuals in India. Your mental health journey starts here; take the first step with Rocket Health today.