Everything You Need To Know About ADHD in Adults
- 1 What is ADHD?
- 2 What are the signs of ADHD?
- 3 What Causes ADHD?
- 4 How are adults with ADHD treated?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a term or an acronym that refers to a mental health condition called Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a relatively common condition that is used to describe a combination of persistent problems in children such as impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention. The symptoms of hyperactivity usually lessens as one gets older but the major signs may remain and can interfere with one’s work and relationships. The disorder is common in children but some have outgrown it during adolescence when the brain chemistry undergoes its developmental stages while others continue to experience the symptoms even in their mature years.
ADHD seems to be more common in boys than in girls. In America, there are about 3 to 5 per hundred school children who suffer from it. Research has shown that seven out of ten children still retain their ADHD condition in adulthood.
What are the signs of ADHD?
Adults who continue to strive coping up with the major ADHD signs such as inattentiveness, impulsiveness and restlessness which can range from mild to severe experience challenges in their daily functioning.
Some people with ADHD may not have been diagnosed in their childhood and are not aware until they experience difficulty in performing daily tasks because they find certain tasks such as maintaining focus and keeping organized difficult. Prioritizing things and remembering deadlines and meetings may be among their challenges. Oftentimes, they find themselves unable to control their temper when being made to wait in line and the traffic can get into their nerves which causes mood swings as well as outbursts of anger.
Among the signs of an adult with ADHD are the following:
- Impulsiveness by doing things at the spur of the moment which tends to get one in trouble
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Inability to sustain attention
- Poor time management
- Disorganized and trouble prioritizing activities
- Chronic tardiness
- Impatience, irritability, hot temper
- Difficulty in controlling anger
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems completing tasks
- Poor stress management
- Inability to follow instructions, focusing and finishing tasks
- It seems like they don’t listen when being spoken to and has the tendency to interrupt or finish other people’s sentences
- Easily distracted and tend to forget things in daily activities
- Difficulty to remain seated and sometimes need to fidget with hands or feet
- Always runs to do things
- Relationship issues
- Excessive talking and blurting out without thinking
- Low self-esteem
- Substance abuse
- Chronic boredom
- Anxiety; difficulty to stop the thoughts running in the mind
- Easy to forget and tend to misplace things and sometimes lose them
It may be hard to distinguish what’s normal and what’s not at all since everyone may experience some or any of these symptoms but if you feel that they are severe and have greatly affected your life, relationship or work, then it is time to seek the help of a professional. Oftentimes, these disruptive signs can be traced back in your childhood.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in adults is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to other mental health condition such as mood swings, depression or anxiety disorders. Most adults have at least one of these issues.
What are the challenges that adults with ADHD encounter?
While adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder experience some of the symptoms, no two persons are exactly similar. Some of them may need a stimulation in order to focus on something but others may try to avoid it. An ADHD person may be extremely social but another may be more withdrawn. Some get into one relationship and then to another one while others almost don’t have any romantic affair because bothered by their severe self-esteem issues.
- School problems
Most people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have a history of academic underachievement such as failing in their grades or repeating a level. Oftentimes, they have behavior problems which always got them in trouble and may have caused them to be dropped out of school.
- Work issues
Persons who are challenged by the ADHD symptoms may not perform well at work resulting in reduced happiness with fewer or no career successes at all. They may jump from one job to another and find it hard to stay long in one company.
- Relationship problems
Since people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have psychological issues, they find it hard to manage themselves as well as their relationship with others. In marriage, they have more marital problems and may end up getting separated and divorced more often than those who don’t have the disorder. They may also have multiple marriages.
- Life challenges
Adults with ADHD may have addiction to drugs or alcohol. They may be chronic smokers or reckless drivers who get more speeding tickets with license suspended. Most of them have less money to spend for their needs and suffer from depression and anxiety.
How is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosed?
If you have experienced some of the disorder symptoms when you were a child, you would have been probably referred to a Pediatric Service or may have seen a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). Generally, the specialist staff conducts an assessment interview that lasts an hour or two so that he or she can gather information about your recent problems and trace them back into your early childhood days. If the symptoms persist as you grow older, you will be moved to an adult psychiatrist who is better equipped to address your needs.
Some persons may not realize they have a disorder until they are adults. They experience issues in how they handle their life and relationships. They go to a psychiatrist for an assessment and in the process, identify the persistence of the issues. In the UK, children who are diagnosed with ADHD lack concentration, are hyperactive, and are normally impulsive in what they do. In the US, some children with signs of ADHD lack the “inattentive” symptom and are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
If you feel you have symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and it is affecting your life, consult a qualified psychiatrist who is thoroughly experienced in diagnosing and treating people with ADHD. He or she may require you to take a physical exam to ensure that no other medical conditions cause the symptoms. You might also need to have a sample of your blood taken and tests run on it. There may be a psychological test that you will need to take. Surely, there is an assessment interview to get information about your health and childhood history.
It is important that the psychiatrist knows about your history and he or she may ask about your school records that describe both your academic and behavior performance when you were younger. He or she will check on teachers’ comments that can be helpful in the assessment. The psychiatrist may also need to talk to your parents.
Adults with the disorder usually had social problems when they were kids. Oftentimes, they cause trouble in the classroom and this affects their academic performance. The psychiatrist may also ask information about other family members or blood relatives who also have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
What Causes ADHD?
Research efforts to determine the exact cause of ADHD continues up to the present. However, there are a few factors associated in the development of the disorder. Among them are the following:
- Genes play a role in the development of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in children. Research has shown that thirty percent of men who had a disorder in their younger years have biological children diagnosed with it. Hence, this mental condition “seems to run in families”. Oftentimes, a child with ADHD has blood relatives with it, too. Currently, more studies are taking place in US and UK to find genes that help contribute to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Dr. Maxmillian Muenke and team from ADHD and Genetics Study are conducting research about this and are open to families who are interested in participating in the study.
- Environment. If the mother of the child with ADHD was exposed to toxins such as alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, this may also increase the chances of a child’s future diagnose. Kids who eat highly-processed diet tend to be more hyperactive than those who eat wholesome diet. Poor living conditions such as exposure to lead paint and rusted pipes are also among the causes of disorder. It may be difficult to stay free of harmful environmental factors but studies have shown that these factors can contribute to ADHD in children so it is necessary to follow a healthy diet and maintain a safe home.
- Development. When a mother had problems during the pregnancy and birth of the child, there is a strong possibility that the child ends up with a mental health disorder such as ADHD. Some of these issues are exposure to drugs or medication, brain infections, psychological stress, and exposure to poison. Some studies also cite the differences in brain structure as one of the reasons for susceptibility to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. One theory states that those with attention disorder lack a specific group of brain chemicals called monoamines. There must be chemicals involved since medication has proven to help improve management of people with it. Some babies who were born prematurely also end up having the above disorder as they grow older.
How are adults with ADHD treated?
When the results of the diagnosis shows that you have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, the psychiatrist will present some options for treatment which you can choose to use on their own or together at a time. Your doctor will discuss the advantages and disadvantages so that you can weigh the alternatives properly.
- Therapy and other behavioral treatments, education, counseling.
The approaches used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can assist a person with ADHD in organizing his or her tasks as well as improve the quality of his or her life. The person undergoes sessions that can help him or her ensure that important tasks are being done, reduce the unhelpful effects of anxiety, and learn to be more reflective to become more positive in life. Family therapy sessions are helpful in educating the other members of the family having a member with ADHD.During psychotherapies, adults with ADHD are taught to understand and manage their condition better so that they can improve their lifestyle. Their self-esteem or addiction issues may also be addressed. Likewise, anger or stress management sessions can help them adjust and improve the way they handle them. There may also be a need to help them succeed in the workplace by making them attend vocational counseling sessions and determine the training needed to improve their chances for employment.
- Among the medications that work as stimulants are the methylphenydate and dexamphetamine. Generally, they work fast but wear off at night. Some evidences claim that these medications work for people with ADHD. In the UK, these drugs are “legally controlled” because of its tendency to be abused. Those who take these medications experience side-effects such as weight loss and sometimes, psychosis.
- This is another type of medication for people with ADHD. The process is slower compared to the methylphenydate and dexamphetamine as the effects show only after several weeks of taking it. It is non-stimulant and can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps.
What are the complications and co-existing conditions that result from having an ADHD?
ADHD has been linked to poor work or school performance, unemployment, substance abuse, accidents, unstable relationships, poor self-image, poor physical and mental health and suicide attempts. Aside from these psychological or developmental problems, ADHD may occur along with these other conditions, which makes treatment become more challenging.
- Mood swings and related mood disorders. Most adults with a disorder have other mood related disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. ADHD may not directly cause these mood issues but research shows that ADHD challenges cause frustrations and can worsen depression.
- Anxiety disorders. While many adults experience anxiety disorders, ADHD challenges can worsen the anxiety feelings of nervousness, inability to stop one’s race of thoughts, excessive worry, and other similar symptoms.
- Learning disabilities. Some adults with Attention Deficiency/Hyperactivity Disorder score lower in academic tests compared with their peers. They may also have issues communicating and understanding things which are sometimes caused by their ADHD symptoms.
- Other psychiatric issues. When an adult has severe symptoms of ADHD, he or she may be at risk of other psychiatric or personality disorders, and substance abuse or addiction.
How can you manage your ADHD?
Since there are no two adults with ADHD who are exactly similar in their symptoms, the following list can be helpful in accordance to the need:
- Disorganization and prioritization. List down your tasks every day. Ensure you list only those you can do for one day. Break down the bigger tasks so it is easier for you to do them. Prioritize and stick to following the list. There may be a need for sticky pads to remind you to finish a task at a certain time and try to “beat the deadline.”
- Forgetfulness and tardiness. Note your appointments and deadlines on your electronic calendar or in an appointment notebook. Always note important things down on your smart phone or notebook so that you don’t forget them.
- Challenges and asking for support. There may be a need for your family to help you remind about things you need to do. Support groups of similar people with ADHD can help you manage your issues when they share their coping strategies. At times, there may be a need to seek the understanding of your teachers at school or co-workers and supervisors at work. If they know your disorder, they will make allowances and become more patient with you.
In the past, Attention Deficiency/Hyperactivity Disorder was known to affect only children but latest studies show that symptoms may persist in adulthood. There is no exact cause contributing to ADHD but it may be because of genetics, environmental factors or developmental stages. Adults with ADHD can be treated with medication, therapy, self-management/education, and counseling.
The Reynolds Clinic LLC offers ADHD seminars, education, testing, and other services that can greatly assist you in managing your ADHD. They are located in Middletown, CT and you can reach them at this number: 860.343.0227.