Nurture Integrative Health

It is ADHD awareness month! So, in honor of that I am going to take a moment to discuss the connection between trauma and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I’m familiar with the fidgeting during a long lecture unable to fully pay attention though I do not have ADHD. I know many people who struggle with ADHD and trauma simultaneously. I believe that it is likely at a greater incidence of ADHD due to the lack of reporting trauma.

ADHD: A brief overview

This disorder affects 5% of children and 2.5% of adults. 75% of children with a diagnosis of ADHD will have symptoms into adulthood. There are many possible causes for ADHD including:

·       Genetics

·       Emotional or physical trauma (including brain injuries)

·       Vitamin deficiencies

·       Chemical exposures.

Symptoms can include lack of focus, unable to stay on task, talking excessively, fidgeting, and acting impulsively. Often people with ADHD are misunderstand and labeled as lazy, unmotivated, and flaky. It is important to recognize that ADHD is different way of processing the world AND impacted by the environment.

Genetics: ADHD is often associated with a genetic mutation in mooamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene. MAO is enzyme responsible for the breakdown of serotonin. This gene can also be influenced by chemical stressors including heavy metals, plastics, and pesticides as well as traumatic experiences.

Both emotional and physical trauma affect the neural pathways of the brain. Heavy metals including lead, mercury, manganese, and arsenic can downregulate the N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA) receptor which also affects the serotonin pathway downstream. This receptor when decreased leads to an increase in anxiety, hyperactivity, and decreased cognition.

When the combination of a genetics, chemical stress, and physical or emotional trauma there is a high probability for an ADHD diagnosis.

PTSD: an Overview

PTSD is an acquired disorder occurring after experiencing a traumatic event. It mainly effects the Hypothalmus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis creating high levels of cortisol. It can additionally decrease the inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, easily excited, hyperactivity, and anxiety.

The overlap between PTSD and ADHD

ADHD and PTSD pic.jpg

PTSD and ADHD affect the prefrontal cortex responsible for executive function and decision making. There is a strong correlation between trauma and the development of ADHD.

Executive dysfunctions: the role in attention deficit hyperactivity and post-traumatic stress neuropsychiatric disorders. 

  • 50% of patients with history of hyperactivity, antisocial behavior, and irritability during childhood were likely to experience psychological trauma

  • Comorbidity between PTSD and ADHD occurs 12-37% of cases

  • Increased incidence of ADHD in boys experiencing emotional abuse and in girls experiencing physical abuse by 3 fold and girls also have more severe symptoms

  • Increased risk with foster care due to lack of attachment

  • The longer the trauma the more likely for a diagnosis of ADHD

Why does all this science mumbo jumbo matter?

It shows there are physical anatomical reasons you have noticed that perhaps your ADHD is worse when your stressed, depressed, anxious, or triggered. What you experienced as a child may still impact on your brain. Though perhaps you fall into the category where your ACE score is low, but you have experienced trauma. The truth is that we all have experienced trauma. There are reasons for being unable to keep your attention, why you forget important plans or dates, or why you hyper focus on a task. Trauma can be emotional or physical abuse but it can also be due to brain trauma. Brain trauma is most caused by physical injury, chemicals, or toxins.

So what do we do with this information?!

From the research I read it is incredibly important to avoid pesticides, plastics, and stress. The first two are easier than the last. Choose plant based organic food that is free pesticides. Look at switching to glass non-plastic storage to avoid plastics. Check out for plastic free storage. Plastics are a known endocrine disrupter and can affect our neural circuits. Then we are left with STRESS. It is challenging especially in the current state of the world. It is important to recognize the ways we play out patterns from our childhood and they continue impact us. It’s essential to find practices that allow you to start to respond to the world instead of reacting to it. There are many ways to do this, but I recommend finding a practice that helps you unpack and shift the patterning.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I practice evidence-based medicine approaches to healing. Where I find that evidence is in your personal experience because your life experience is what truly matters. I use energetic medicine, plant medicine, body work, and shamanic practices to help people heal from trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression. Please check out my approach to brain trauma and follow my blog for more information. I offer free 15 minutes consults contact me at or pass this along to someone that needs it!

In support of your journey,

Dr. Wilson


  1. González RA, Vélez-Pastrana MC, McCrory E, et al. Evidence of concurrent and prospective associations between early maltreatment and ADHD through childhood and adolescenceSoc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2019;54(6):671-682.

  2. Kaya A, Taner Y, Guclu B, et al. Trauma and adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorderJ Int Med Res. 2008;36(1):9-16.

  3. Ertan C, Özcan ÖÖ, Pepele MS. Paediatric trauma patients and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: correlation and significance. Emerg Med J. 2012;29(11):911-914.

  4. Martínez L, Prada E, Satler C, Tavares MCH, Tomaz C. Executive dysfunctions: the role in attention deficit hyperactivity and post-traumatic stress neuropsychiatric disorders. Front Psychol. 2016;7.

  5. Nilsen FM, Tulve NS. A systematic review and meta-analysis examining the interrelationships between chemical and non-chemical stressors and inherent characteristics in children with ADHDEnviron Res. 2020;180:108884.

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