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Clinical distinction between cognitive disengagement syndrome and ADHD presentations in a nationally representative sample of Spanish children and adolescents.

BACKGROUND: This study sought to determine whether cognitive disengagement syndrome (CDS, formerly sluggish cognitive tempo) has different external correlates relative to ADHD-inattentive presentation (INP), ADHD-hyperactive/impulsive presentation (HIP), and ADHD-combined presentation (CP).

METHODS: Parents of a nationally representative sample of 5,525 Spanish youth (ages: 5-16, 56.1% boys) completed measures of CDS, ADHD-inattention (IN), and ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity (HI) and other measures. Scores greater/less than the top 5% on CDS, ADHD-IN, and ADHD-HI were used to create control (n = 5,013, 90.73%), CDS-only (n = 131, 2.37%), ADHD-INP-only (n = 83, 1.50%), ADHD-HIP-only (n = 113, 2.05%), ADHD-CP-only (n = 48, 0.97%), CDS + ADHD-INP (n = 44, 0.80%), CDS + ADHD-HIP (n = 25, 0.45%), and CDS + ADHD-CP (n = 68, 1.23%) groups.

RESULTS: Forty-nine percent of youth with clinically elevated CDS did not qualify for any ADHD presentation, whereas 64% of youth with clinically elevated ADHD did not qualify for CDS. The CDS-only group was higher than the ADHD-INP-only, ADHD-HIP-only, and ADHD-CP-only groups on anxiety, depression, somatization, daytime sleep-related impairment, nighttime sleep disturbance, and peer withdrawal, whereas the CDS-only and ADHD-INP-only groups did not differ on ODD (ADHD-HIP-only and ADHD-CP-only higher) and academic impairment (ADHD-CP-only higher than CDS-only and ADHD-HIP-only lower than CDS-only). The CDS-only group also had higher rates of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder diagnoses than the ADHD-only group.

CONCLUSIONS: A distinction was found between CDS and each ADHD presentation, thus providing support for CDS as a syndrome that frequently co-occurs with yet is distinct from each ADHD presentation.

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