The ADHD-Crime Connection

One of the saddest facts about ADHD is that it increase the likelihood a person will commit a crime. That is not to say that everyone with ADHD will become a criminal. Many people with ADHD do not commit crimes, but there is an increase likelihood of criminal behaviors in persons with ADHD.

There are several areas in which to examine a connection between crime and ADHD: How prevalent is crime among those with ADHD, why ADHDers are more prone to commit crimes than others, and how to prevent ADHDers from committing crimes.

ADHD in Prisons

One area criminologists look to find statistics on crime is prisons. They study the demographics of prisoners. This gives them an idea of what type of people we incarcerate. It should be noted that these statistics have limitations. They only tell us about who gets put in prison. There is a discussion to be had over whether or not there is bias in whom we prosecute, convict, and sentence to prison time. (However, that discussion is outside the parameters of our discussion.)

According to Wright et al (2014), the rate of ADHD in prisons is 25%. This is much higher than in the general population. Furthermore, Langevin and Curnoe (2011) linked ADHD to recidivism, a fancy word that refers to repeat offending. This seems to suggest those with ADHD break the law more than neurotypicals do.

This does not mean, however, that, if you have ADHD, you are doomed to a life of crime. No one is destined to be a criminal. Those who commit crimes choose to do so. The key stopping ADHDers from committing crimes is to have proper treatment plan that focuses on identifying problem behaviors, using one’s strengths, harnessing certain behaviors to use them for good, and making strong and healthy connections.


One possible explanation that might explain why ADHDers are prone to committing crimes is their propensity towards impulsivity. When ADHDers act impulsively, they are not rationally thinking through their actions. They do what feels good now, rather than examining the future consequences of their actions.

Harness Behaviors that Could Become Criminal

Those who spray paint graffiti on the sides of buildings and trains have true artistic talent. Instead of spraying paint where they do not have permission, a person with this level of artistic talent should use those skills in areas where they do have permission. For example, a restaurant just opened where I live that uses graffiti in its decoration.

This is an example of how a person with tendencies towards crime can harness troublesome behaviors for good. Examine your character traits and strengths. Those things can be used for both good and bad purposes. Be sure to use them in a healthy way that benefits you, those around, and the entire world.


ADHD expert Doctor Edward Hallowell promotes having healthy connections in one’s life as part of a strong plan to manage the symptoms of ADHD. He notes several areas where it is important to make connections which include family, friends, community (school, work, etc.), clubs and organizations, nature, animals, spirituality, and yourself. Making connections in these areas will give you a strong support system in your battle to manage ADHD.

I bring this up in this discussion because the work of several criminologist seem to support Dr. Hallowell’s theory. The works of Edwin Sutherland and Ronald Akers resulted in theories that crime results from people who have made bad associations with others who taught them beliefs and behaviors that made committing a crime acceptable. A third criminologist, Travis Hirschi, proposed that the bonds we make with society (attachments, commitments, and beliefs) are what prevent people from committing crimes

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Harness your impulsivity and make strong connections within your community.


  • Langevin, R., & Curnoe, S. (2011). Psychopathy, ADHD, and Brain Dysfunction as Predictors of Lifetime Recidivism among Sex Offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 55(1), 5–26.

  • Wright, J. P., Tibbetts, S. G., & Daigle, L. E. (2014). Criminals in the Making: Criminality Across the Life Course (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.