Last updated:

November 4, 2022


 min read

Is ADHD genetic? Everything you need to know

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the disorders that can be commonly identified in children. Does that make it genetic? Let’s find out.

Reviewed by
Written by
Paridhi Gupta

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It is commonly diagnosed in children since the symptoms emerge at an early age. However, ADHD can often go undiagnosed, due to which many people receive proper diagnoses only in adulthood. Although there is no 'cure' for ADHD, you can manage its symptoms with proper treatment. 

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD symptoms in children can be divided into the following types:


  • Easily distracted and forgetful
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Loses or misplaces things very often
  • Has problems with organising daily tasks
  • Finds it hard to follow instructions

Hyperactive-Impulsive (Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive presentation)

  • Cannot sit still for long periods at a stretch
  • Fidgeting constantly
  • Squirms when sitting
  • Excessive talking
  • Always active and energetic
  • Gets impatient while waiting their turn 
  • Blurts out answers
  • Interrupts others mid-conversation
  • Restless and impulsive

Combined presentation

  • Exhibits the symptoms of both the aforementioned types together

On the other hand, ADHD in adults manifest in the following ways:

  • Often late for events, tasks, and meetings
  • Forgetful
  • Easily frustrated
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Trouble controlling anger
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Impulsiveness
  • Frequent mood swings 
  • Poor time management and organisational skills

What causes ADHD?

Let us now look at the possible factors that can cause ADHD.

Is it all in the genes?

Yes, there can be a genetic cause of ADHD. Many gene variations, most of which are yet to be identified, can be related to the symptoms of ADHD. These variations, combined with environmental factors, lead to the condition. 

There are also certain uncommon cases of rare gene mutations in chromosomes, where a single gene mutation is enough to cause the disorder. These mutations are related to the functioning of neurons and neurotransmitters, which affect multiple aspects of brain development. To sum up, yes, ADHD can have a genetic predisposition, but that might not always be the sole contributing factor. Research is ongoing to determine the exact genes associated with ADHD, and we will only be able to (hopefully) arrive at a more precise answer with time. 

Is ADHD hereditary?

Many studies have suggested that ADHD can run in families. A child is at a higher risk of developing the disorder if their parents (around 50% chance) or siblings (approximately 30% chance) have ADHD. Moreover, at least one-third of all fathers diagnosed with ADHD have children with the same diagnosis.

However, family history does not necessarily guarantee a diagnosis. A person’s environment also influences how likely they are to develop ADHD. 

How does an ADHD brain function? 

Researchers with the National Institute of Mental HealthTrusted Source (NAMI) have identified a particular area of the brain affected by ADHD. This area, associated with attention and focus, reportedly has comparatively thinner brain tissues. Children with ADHD tend to have smaller frontal lobes in their brains, which are responsible for problem-solving, attention, and decision-making. This leads to impulsivity and poor concentration. 

ADHD can also impact neuronal networks associated with planning and reward. Others affected areas of the brain are neural networks related to focus, attention, movement, etc. Finally, people with ADHD have lower levels of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, which is why stimulant meds are often prescribed for ADHD. 

Like the other factors, the complexities of brains with ADHD are still being studied, along with how brain functions are linked to certain symptoms. 

Environmental Factors

Mothers who consume alcohol or smoke during their pregnancy can put their babies at risk of ADHD. The same applies to babies with low birth weight or premature birth. Head injuries to the frontal lobe of children's brains can also cause ADHD-related symptoms. Lastly, exposure to heavy metals like lead can lead to this condition.

What doesn’t cause ADHD

Now that we know what causes ADHD, it is also important to undo some common misconceptions by learning about the factors that, unlike popular belief, do not cause ADHD.

  • Parenting patterns: Parenting techniques are generally associated with psychological disorders, not neurodevelopmental disorders (such as ADHD). However, good parenting can support a child to cope better with symptoms right from an early age.
  • Video games: No evidence has suggested a correlation between video games and the likelihood of developing ADHD. Although, kids with ADHD often tend to 'hyperfocus' on and excel at video games.
  • Diet: While some people believe that overconsumption of sugar can lead to ADHD, there is no scientific evidence for the same.

Treatment options for ADHD

Therapists use different techniques to treat symptoms of ADHD, as well as help families offer better support to kids with ADHD. These techniques include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), parent management training, and stress management techniques. A psychiatrist may also prescribe stimulant and/or non-stimulant medication to enhance focus, attention, and emotional regulation for people with ADHD.

Living with ADHD can be difficult; we understand that. But we want you to remember that the condition is manageable with the correct treatment and therapy.