Is it difficult to prioritize the overwhelming number of thoughts in your head at once? Are you constantly forgetting, misplacing, or losing things? Do you find it impossible to sit still? If you are struggling with these kinds of organizational and focus-related issues, you may have ADHD. While we tend to associate this neurobiological disorder with children and teens, it also affects adults, and without proper treatment it can lead to academic or professional failure, relational challenges, and emotional difficulties.
ADHD is most often characterized by a co-occurrence of inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. However, persons diagnosed with ADHD may manifest some of these symptoms without the others, and many times children diagnosed with ADHD will outgrow the hyperactive elements of the disorder. People with ADHD commonly struggle with short attention spans and find it difficult to listen to others. They may be easily distracted and forgetful, unable to organize themselves or their thoughts, and may frequently take risks without thinking through consequences. People with ADHD are also commonly described as fidgety, unfocused, and unable to finish projects.
Many people find that being diagnosed with ADHD is a relief: they now have a way to understand to the inexplicable struggles they have been facing. What’s more, ADHD isn’t necessarily a burden – in fact, people with ADHD are some of the most creative, energetic thinkers around. But to really succeed with ADHD, intervention is often necessary. Our culture has often turned to medication to treat ADHD, but more and more people are finding success with psychotherapy. Learning to manage your symptoms by making small behavioral changes can make a real difference in your success.
If you find it hard to listen to others, remember details, or organize your time, it can be very difficult to maintain healthy, positive relationships. Persons with ADHD often struggle to read social cues, and their impulsive behavior can put a strain on romantic, familial, or professional relationships. Fortunately, our understanding of this disorder has dramatically increased over the past several years, and with the help of a professional therapist, you can learn strategies for building and maintaining meaningful relationships that will last.
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The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) lists Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a “Neuro-developmental Disorder” and refers to it as a neurological disease. It notes that it is not only found in children, but in adolescents and adults.
The DSM-5 states that “individuals with ADHD may present with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, or one symptom pattern may predominate … Three presentations of ADHD are commonly referred to: combined-type, inattentive-type and hyperactive/impulsive-type … the appropriate presentation of ADHD should be indicated based on the predominant symptom pattern for the last six months.”
Summarizing the DSM-5’s description of ADHD, the ADHD Institute defines it as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development, has symptoms presenting in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities), and negatively impacts directly on social, academic, or occupational functioning. Several symptoms must have been present before age 12 years.”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) considers ADHD “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”
The NIH delineates three basic types:
ADHD, or ‘Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder’, is a relatively controversial mental health condition. While it has traditionally been thought of as something that made it difficult for children to sit still or pay attention in school or at home, new research is painting a different picture of what ADHD is. Many people debate about whether ADHD is a diagnosis that’s overused (or even legitimate at all), about what the best way of treating ADHD is, as well as about whether you can have ADHD as an adult. While there is still a lot about ADHD that we don’t understand, it is clear now that ADHD is not just a condition for children.
As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I’ve had many adults ask me if they suffer from ADHD. They come with complaints of difficulty focusing at work, staying on task with challenging projects, ‘spacing out’ while someone is talking to them, or any number of other problems related to focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While, at times, there is something else going on that better explains these concerns, many adults are surprised to find that, despite being 30, 50, or even 70, they have ADHD!
ADHD is a chronic psychiatric condition which, despite often first being seen in childhood, can manifest at any age. Research now suggests that adults who have ADHD may have had it all along and got along fine until the demands of adult life finally overwhelmed their ability to compensate, or that adult...Read More
Part 4 of a 4-Part Series
This is the fourth article in a series on Adult ADHD. The first article explored symptoms people may have with ADHD. The second article discussed the evaluation process and who should conduct the evaluations. The third article explored the importance of “executive function” and what can be done if it is not working well. In this final article in the series, I look at how ADHD affects adult relationships and at what steps one can take to overcome the problems that it causes.
ADHD is thought of as a developmental condition. At least sixty percent of those affected by ADHD in childhood will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. At the same time, symptoms do not appear later in life if they were not present in childhood. For those who have faced the challenges of ADHD since childhood, they have most likely experienced the frustration of parents and teachers. They have known the embarrassment and shame of being told that they are choosing to not try harder at their work, or are just looking for an excuse for their struggles. It is hardly surprising to learn that a teen or adult with ADHD experiences anxiety and/or depression. When ADHD goes undiagnosed and is untreated, life becomes very difficult.
Hyperactivity lessens in adulthood and may look more like fidgeting and feeling...Read More