What Is AuDHD? An Introduction to AuDHD

AuDHD is a relatively new term that has gained more traction recently, but what does it mean? In this post, we explain what AuDHD is and go into detail on symptoms and traits as well as breaking down the link between ADHD and autism.

AuDHD Meaning

AuDHD is an acronym that describes individuals with two types of neurodivergence – Autism and ADHD. To give AuDHD meaning, it’s an amalgamation of the word Autism and the acronym ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). And, since rates are increasing, AuDHD is a neurodivergent term that everyone should become acquainted with.

Research and medical worlds now recognise how Autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can be comorbid and not mutually exclusive conditions. Until 2013, the medical community thought a diagnosis of one would preclude the other. But now, it’s accepted that both neurodivergences can co-occur at the same time.

While AuDHD is not yet a formal medical diagnosis, the neurodivergent community uses it to highlight when someone has both conditions. Several sources suggest the chances of having both are significant, leading many to explore further the connections between these two conditions. 

AuDHD Symptoms and Traits

Autism and ADHD are two distinct conditions. Individuals with autism have a particular set of symptoms and those with ADHD have another. But there are overlaps too.

For instance, people with autism can experience symptoms like being rigid when it comes to rules or special interests. They may also focus too much on details and be unable to recognise social signals.

For people who have ADHD, it’s more likely they’ll experience problems with inattention, hyperactivity, mind-wandering, and issues with working memory.

Those people who have AuDHD may experience overlapping symptoms on top of symptoms found in individual conditions. For instance, overlapping symptoms may include restlessness, fidgeting, interruptions, OCD, sensory issues, and hyperfixation.

For many people, symptoms can complement each other and be well managed. Others can find living with both conditions leads to a sense of inner conflict or a form of dissonance.

Other overlapping symptoms found in people with AuDHD may include:

  • Difficulties with attention and focus: People with ADHD can struggle to stay focused on tasks. However, those with autism may also struggle with motivation to complete a task. 
    • Hyperactivity: Impulsivity and hyperactivity are most often found in people with ADHD. But they can be present in people with autism, even if to a lesser degree. 
    • Sensory sensitivities: Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and temperatures can all impact people with autism. People with ADHD can also experience hyper-sensitivity to sensory information leading to a fight or flight response. 
    • Emotional dysregulation (ED): Common in people with ADHD, emotional dysregulation has a direct link to deficits in executive functioning. This is also seen in people with autism and can be linked to stress and anxiety. 
  • Communication skills: People with AuDHD may have limitations in social-emotional reciprocity and find it difficult with social interaction. 

How Common Is AuDHD?

Comorbidity rates are high for people with ADHD and autism. Research from 2022 suggests 50 to 70% of individuals with autism also experience comorbid ADHD.

Further meta-analysis suggests the lifetime prevalence of ADHD in ASD is around 40%. In this research, though, factors including age, IQ, and diagnostic criteria all influenced the rates of prevalence.

Despite high comorbidity rates, proper understanding of the interplay between each condition is low. Medics and those in the research field admit there is still much to understand about how neurodivergent conditions develop and how to recognise the presence of comorbidity.  

How Are Autism and ADHD Connected?

Autism and ADHD are similar because they are both neurodevelopmental conditions. And while there are different subtypes of both such as severe autism and ADHD impulsive/hyperactive, both forms potentially originate from someone’s biology.

Genetics plays a significant role in the development of both autism and ADHD and the co-occurrence of both. As neurodevelopmental conditions, we know both emerge from dysfunctions in the Central Nervous System and the brain’s Executive Functioning. As yet, though, research cannot confirm the causes of either condition or why there are higher rates of comorbidity.

A 2022 report shows how individuals with a dual diagnosis have twice the genetic predisposition for both conditions. This is different when it’s compared to ASD or ADHD as distinct and stand-alone conditions. And it reveals strong evidence and interesting considerations for the biological evolution and neurodivergence and higher rates of AuDHD.

Further research reveals how firstborn children of women with ADHD have a six-fold higher likelihood of also having ADHD while–at the same time–being twice as likely to have autism than the rest of society.  

Is AuDHD an Official Diagnosis?

AuDHD is not considered an official diagnosis. It’s more of an identifier that’s accepted by the neurodivergent community. You can find AuDHD trending as #AuDHD on TikTok and Instagram. And it’s become popular on social media because of rising cases and higher rates of dual diagnosis in younger people.

Despite the popular use of the term, it is not an official term or label. And many people in the neurodiversity community suggest that people with AuDHD don’t have two conditions at the same time but more a set of individual diverse and interlinked traits. The same people also view people with autism and ADHD as sharing similar clusters of neurodivergent traits.

Despite this, anyone who uses the label should have these traits or a formal diagnosis of both autism and ADHD. And while AuDHD manifests in different ways in different people, those who experience more acute or severe symptoms may have problems with motor skills, social skills and executive functioning. 

Is There a Test for AuDHD?

As yet, there isn’t a single diagnostic test to diagnose both ADHD and autism in one sitting or at the same time. Because each condition is individual and distinct they do require separate diagnoses. And, as we’ve mentioned, rates are high and to date, there are no studies on how using ADHD treatments may work for people who have both ADHD and autism.

While it could be feasible to expect the medical community to develop a single test to determine AuDHD, until then individuals should expect to use the label when they receive a dual diagnosis. This can often take a long time and the current waiting list for an ADHD diagnosis is five years.