Researchers exploring a possible link between chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) say fatigue may be an important symptom of adult ADHD, and that people with ME/CFS or other types of persistent fatigue should be looked at for ADHD.
Their new study looked at three cases of ME/CFS in people who'd responded poorly to treatment. Researchers found that all three met the criteria for ADHD, and all three responded well to psychostimulant medications, which are a common part of ADHD treatment. They say the patients saw improvements in fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms.
Researchers concluded that ADHD and ME/CFS may share a common underlying mechanism, and that over time, ADHD may develop into a syndrome chronic fatigue and pain. (It's unclear whether this would most appropriately be considered a new form of ADHD or a subset of ME/CFS.)
From previous research, we know that ME/CFS and ADHD both involve neurotransmitter dysregulation that may involve serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. However, that alone isn't enough to say they're related - neurotransmitters perform different jobs in different regions, and different jobs within a region based on specific receptors, so it's a complicated matter.
Some doctors do prescribe ADHD medications off-label for ME/CFS, and they work for some (but not all) people.
- Learn More: ADHD Drugs for ME/CFS
Some doctors have talked about a theoretical post-ADHD chronic fatigue syndrome for several years, and this research is one piece of evidence firming up that theory.
Do you think ADHD and ME/CFS are related? Did you have ADHD before ME/CFS? Have ADHD drugs helped your ME/CFS? Leave your comments below!