Lolly Adams
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Oct 30, 2022

Identifying the link between the mental disorder ADHD and crime. Something a little different for my readers, but nonetheless equally as important as actual cases.

What is ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADHD is a mental health disorder commonly associated with children but progresses into adulthood and presents its own very unique challenges as the person ages.

Although adults very much mirror many symptoms such as impulsive behaviour and lack of attention to childhood symptoms it can and does affect many patients in different ways.

The chances are ADHD in adults may well have started in a person during childhood in many cases it will not be properly diagnosed until later in life.

The Mayo Clinic says that adults with ADHD may not even recognise or experience some of the symptoms such as impulsiveness and that is because it can manifest in many different ways.

Impulsive behaviour traits can be recognised in simple things such as impatience in a long queue, outbursts of anger and severe sudden mood swings. This is one of the traits that can end in the sufferer committing serious and in particular violent crimes, more on that as we progress.

Impulsive behaviour symptoms can often manifest a hot & violent temper, frequent unexplained mood swings, trouble dealing with stressful situations and low tolerance levels.

Many other patients reporting symptoms often say that they lack the ability to “Engage brain before opening mouth”, so to speak and end up saying things before they are able to consider the consequences. This behaviour can also knock into impulsive buying, engaging in unprotected intimacy and even leaving a job on a whim.

The Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of ADHD in adults as:

Carelessness and lack of attention to detail

Continually starting new tasks before completing ones already started

Poor organisation skills

Inability to focus or prioritise

Continually losing & misplacing things


Restlessness and edginess

Difficulty keeping quiet & speaking out of turn/interrupting

Listed below are the medical symptoms listed by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service:

  • Symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, anxiety and sleep problems

  • ADHD was first recognised and properly diagnosed as a valid mental health condition in the UK in 2000 but not officially recognised as an adult condition until as late as 2008.

  • In 1990 only 40 children in the UK were on medical treatment, which means many of today’s adults have never been treated or managed properly

  • At least a third of these are likely to have significant ongoing problems as adults

  • ADHD affects 5% of children and 3% of adults (1.5 million) in the UK, making it the most common behavioural disorder in the country

  • About a third of children are diagnosed, while for adults it is about 7–8%

  • Of course, there are many people who have unexplained conditions that could well be found to be ADHD

Interestingly researchers have discovered that people, especially males with the condition are much more likely to commit crimes. Recent figures show that 37% of men and 15% of women that suffer from ADHD are more likely to commit a crime, compared to just 9% of men and 2% of women who do not have the condition. 

According to the charity ADHD Action, 30% of adult prisoners have been diagnosed with the condition.

Something that has struck me as very interesting during my research is that British members of Parliament began a campaign with the all-party parliamentary group for ADHD led by Alex Sobel MP to request that all persons aged 12 and 20 who are arrested for ‘impulsive crimes’ should be subject to mandatory testing for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Something similar is already in place in the British prison system, as confirmed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice “all new prisoners undergo three assessments during their first few days in custody during which ADHD can be detected”.

There is currently a trial underway at ISIS Prison and Young Offenders Institute in Southeast London. The investigation will hopefully decide “how to deliver cost-effective and safe treatments to adult prisoners with ADHD”.

The Home Office said anyone taken into custody must have their welfare taken into account and laws were in place to safeguard vulnerable people.

Alex Sobel MP, vice chair of the all-party committee for ADHD (picture credit Jewish News)

Mr Sobel, vice chair of the parliamentary group and Labour MP for Leeds North West said “teenagers arrested for offences such as fighting, bike theft and shoplifting, should automatically be tested”.

“The earlier we pick it up the better it is for the individual, the taxpayers and ability for them not to move on into the criminal justice system,” he said.

“If ADHD goes undiagnosed then reoffending rates are around 32%, studies show — a third of people with ADHD are going to re-offend because they haven’t been diagnosed and no action has been taken”.

It is comforting to know that calls for the screening of young offenders have been backed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

A look at some criminal cases related to ADHD

Join me in part two when I will be looking at some of the cases linked to ADHD.

In the meantime, if you have anything to say on this fascinating subject, please get in touch, I would love to help bring a lot more to this.

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A little about the author:

Lolly Adams is a true crime researcher & writer and works alongside cold case detectives and other researchers reviewing cold and unsolved cases and everything true crime.

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