Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a childhood condition, but many people aren’t aware that it can linger into adulthood. Furthermore, up to 90 percent of sufferers go undiagnosed.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a disorder of the brain that is marked by such characteristics as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and an inability to concentrate. When first seen in children who had trouble paying attention in school or sitting still during class, it was known as ADD, because the focus was on the “attention deficit” part of the disorder. Later, hyperactivity was recognized as another part of the syndrome, and the name was expanded to include that facet.
The condition was initially thought to resolve itself once children reached adulthood, but that was possibly due to the fact that once youngsters graduated they began functioning in a different environment. In a work setting where sitting still and paying attention to a teacher was no longer required, ADHD-type behavior might not have been as noticeable. In addition, the behaviors altered into less-recognizable symptoms. But as many as 60 percent of children who were diagnosed with ADHD will still have it as adults. And adults who were never diagnosed as children may not realize they have the disorder.
Adult ADHD symptoms are different
Part of the problem in recognizing ADHD in adults stems from the fact that “symptoms might look different at older ages,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. “For example, in adults hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.” Other ADHD symptoms in adults can include: inability to follow directions or remember information; boredom, difficulty concentrating or organizing tasks; brain fog; anxiety; sensitivity to light; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; procrastination or chronic lateness; mood swings; relationship problems; substance abuse or addiction; or low self-image.
ADHD can be misdiagnosed
Because there is no definitive clinical test available to diagnose ADHD in either children or adults, it can often be mistaken for other medical conditions. These include mood disorders like depression and anxiety; medical conditions like thyroid problems and hypoglycemia; and negative reactions to both legal and illegal drugs.
Furthermore, many people still believe ADHD is a “made-up disease” meant to either enrich the pharmaceutical companies or explain away simple laziness in those who suffer from it. The fact is, however, that 4.4 percent of adults do have this disorder, and it can be treated.
How ADHD is diagnosed
ADHD is diagnosed through a combination of methods, beginning with ruling out other physical and mental causes for symptoms, and reviewing the results of ADHD rating scales. There are several tests available online that can help determine whether ADHD might be a cause of some of the symptoms mentioned above, including the Adult Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener available from the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA).
Such screening tools are not definitive but merely point toward the possibility of the disorder. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) says: “Diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed clinician, such as pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with expertise in ADHD. . . . The doctor will also ensure that any ADHD symptoms are not due to another medical or psychiatric condition. . . . For an adolescent or adult to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms need to have been present prior to age 12.”
How is adult ADHD treated?
While there is no cure for ADHD, many different approaches may be used to help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. These include medication, psychotherapy, stress management techniques, and support groups. The ADDA says the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy.
If you believe you may have ADHD, please talk to your concierge doctors at MD 2.0. We can help you rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, as well as get you the help you need.