The Most Up-To-Date Research In ADHD

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is by no means a new mental health disorder. That being said, there is still so much we can learn about this complex disorder, how it affects adults with ADHD and school age children, and what kind of treatments, such as ADHD medications and behavioral therapy, can be effective in reducing symptoms.

Every day, research studies, including clinical trials, are conducted to determine the factors influencing ADHD and its link to other conditions. Organizations like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) offer resources and information on their website to help families, patients, and the general population stay informed. Keeping up with the latest research can help us all learn and grow, whether you are diagnosed with ADHD or not.

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What is ADHD?

According to ADHD statistics, the acronym ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. You may have heard of ADD, which used to be a classification differentiating the two on the basis of hyperactivity. In the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), however, the diagnosis of ADHD was updated to include different presentations of the disorder (inattentive and impulsive), rendering the label ADD as obsolete and no longer needed.
ADHD may often be thought of as a disorder only experienced by children. However, symptoms of ADHD can continue into adulthood and some people with ADHD aren’t diagnosed until the individual is over 18.
In the US, over 5 million children are diagnosed with ADHD each year, and of those 5 million, 15-65% of them continue to experience the symptoms into adulthood.

Statistically, there are also many undiagnosed cases of ADHD due to its difficulty to accurately diagnose, as there is symptom overlap with many other mental health disorders.

ADHD can present itself differently on a person-to-person basis. Some individuals with ADHD might experience inattentiveness and lack of focus more than restlessness and other individuals might constantly be fidgety or hyper-fixate on activities. The important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how an individual experiences their ADHD, it is just as valid as other people’s experiences.

Now that you know a little more about ADHD as a whole, let’s learn about the updates in the current understanding of this disorder.


The role of technology

Psychologists are looking into the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) as diagnostic tools and potential treatments. Recent studies show that VR and AR technologies could have a significant impact in assessing symptoms of and diagnosing ADHD accurately. There is also ample evidence to suggest VR’s capabilities of augmenting our current treatment options, improving the effectiveness of treatments.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a surge in telemedicine research and two such VR programs were authorized by the FDA as augmentation therapies for treatment.


EndeavorRx was the first FDA-approved ADHD mobile video game program and is approved for children ages 8-12. The technology in EndeavorRx provides stimuli for the player that specifically target the parts of the brain involved in attention. The game is also designed so that the difficulty will change in real-time as a response to the player. 

73% of children reported an improvement in their attention after playing the game 5 days a week for 4 weeks. In order to play this game, your child would need a prescription from their doctor and must already be on a treatment plan.


Like EndeavorRx, XRHealth developed an FDA-approved high-tech VR therapy app for ADHD. In contrast to EndeavorRx, this VR app includes a headset to transport the user to a new world where they can be fully immersed in their surroundings. The app is able to track the user’s eye movements and send them to the observing therapist who can then adjust the difficulty accordingly. Similarly to EndeavorRx, this technology needs to be prescribed by a mental health professional to use.

The household environment

The age-old question of nature vs. nurture collides in this study, researching whether or not growing up in a chaotic home contributes to the risks and symptoms of ADHD. For this study, 2,232 twins were chosen and observed from age 5 to age 12. The researchers also assessed how chaotic their home environment was throughout that time in conjunction with the severity of the children’s symptoms of ADHD. The levels of chaos were calculated by assessing various household traits such as noisiness, whether or not there was a consistent routine, and messiness, among others.

The study found that the children growing up in a more chaotic home showed stronger signs of ADHD. But the chaotic fashion of their home life is only part of the equation. Due to the nature of this study, the cause and effect goes both ways – symptoms were stronger in chaotic households and, inversely, chaotic households had higher rates of ADHD. This study concluded that both sides were likely causation, showing clear evidence that ADHD is, in fact, genetic. The study refers to this as gene-environment correlation.

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How sleep can impact symptoms

You may or may not be surprised to learn that it affects people’s ability to get a restful night's sleep, as well! The following two studies explain why that might be and how we might be able to combat it.

Specific learning disorder (SLD)

Specific learning disorders like dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia have been shown to frequently go hand-in-hand with ADHD. Additionally, people with SLD and ADHD are at higher risk for developing sleep disturbances. Knowing this, scientists decided to conduct a study on sleep disturbances for comorbid diagnoses. 74 children with ADHD, 78 children with SLD, and 76 children with both ADHD and SLD were chosen to be part of this study and their sleep patterns were assessed over 2 months.

The resulting evidence concluded that many of the children experienced sleep disturbances; however, the children with the comorbid diagnosis of ADHD and SLD experienced a significantly higher number of sleep disturbances. Not only does this evidence point to a clear correlation between these neurodevelopmental disorders and sleep disturbances but also suggests that there is a common underlying factor affecting sleep and neurodevelopment.

Weighted blankets and sleep problems

We’ve talked about the relationship between sleep problems and ADHD, so now let’s get into how we can improve sleep. Melatonin has been frequently used for children with sleep challenges; however, there can be side effects, including dizziness, stomach cramps, anxiety, and more. In response, a qualitative study was done to assess whether or not a weighted blanket could have positive effects on the sleep and well-being of children with ADHD. Parents and children alike reported positive feedback on the usage of weighted blankets, including one parent who said, “Lately, I think she has become more alert, I mean happy, she is generally happy, but you noticed before when she had slept or been tired that she became more irritable and things like that. But I find it’s positive. She is always happy and less tired.”

The researchers conducting this study concluded that not only did sleeping with the weighted blanket improve sleep, but also the overall quality of life of the participants.

Gender disparities in diagnosis

Historically, ADHD has been thought of by psychologists as a male-dominated disorder due to the much higher rate of diagnoses in males, compared to females. However, recent research shows this is likely due to how ADHD manifests in males vs. females. Females tend to lean more towards an inattentive diagnosis of ADHD, whereas males are more inclined to struggle with memory aspects. As it stands now, scientists believe that there is no significant difference in the number of males and females with ADHD and that if there is any difference it is likely that females actually have a higher rate of ADHD.

Few studies examine the statistics on transgender or intersex individuals, as the brain of a transgender man is closer in chemistry to a cisgender man and the same is said for transgender women and cisgender women, so researchers can only speak for cisgender individuals at this time.

Online therapy for ADHD

ADHD and other mental health disorders can be hard to manage and a support system can help. If you or a loved one are in need of help with your mental health, reaching out to a licensed therapist is a great way to get started. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that provides remote counseling to help you or a loved one take control of your happiness today.

A 2022 study pointed out that in-person treatments for ADHD can take a long time, and many families are left managing symptoms alone while their names sit on a waiting list. The same study suggested online therapy as a solution. The results were better for both adults and children with ADHD when they sought out online therapy options.

Online therapy is generally more affordable and it has also been proven to reduce psychological distress among students.  For individuals with ADHD, online therapy’s more flexible structuring can be helpful in allowing them to received the treatment they need on a regular basis.

Managing the symptoms can be complex, but online therapy can help bring order to your treatment and life.


Research into mental health disorders, including the use of medication, can benefit anyone and everyone. You may have a friend or loved one with ADHD or may have been diagnosed yourself. Mental health affects us all in many ways, and finding out more about how our brain works, along with potential treatment options, can help us learn how to take care of ourselves and support those around us.
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