Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder is biological in origin. It is caused by a dysfunction in the transmission of information to the brain which results in the disruption of the brain’s executive function. The symptoms can also be affected by the environmental factors and the sufferer’s own emotional health. Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are common amongst people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. This is sometimes due to emotional frustrations caused by the symptoms. In children with ADHD, the most common coexisting conditions are behavioral disorders – oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. In adults, it is depression and anxiety.
Adult ADHD was only recognized in the 1970s. Until then it was believed that the symptoms would clear as the child grew up. It is estimated that 4.4% of adults in the United States have ADHD. The presence of a coexisting condition will increase the impact of ADHD. As the child with ADHD grows, so does the probability of a coexisting condition appearing. By the time that he has reached adulthood, he will have up to 70% chance of suffering from a co-existing condition. As children grow into adults, there is often a reduction in observable symptoms.
When ADHD is suspected in an adult patient, a thorough examination is crucial as this disorder is often accompanied by other disorders. Adults should find themselves a psychiatrist with experience in treating ADHD, as the diagnosis and treatment of the symptoms and the coexisting conditions are difficult to perform. All conditions and symptoms must be considered before treatment commences. Stimulant medications are often prescribed for adults and studies show that these medications help two-thirds of their population. Treatment of adults normally includes therapy and lifestyle changes. Adults with ADHD have a 40% chance of also having a mood disorder such as depression, anxiety or bipolar mood disorder. Up to 20% of people with ADHD will show symptoms of BMD.
Depression and Anxiety
The most serious mood disorders suffered by adults are depression and anxiety. Lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of these disorders. Adults should take steps to ensure that they are getting enough sleep. Exercise is a great way to get rid of excess energy and reduce anxiety, and a healthy low GI diet may help reduce mood swings.
Up to 50% of adults with ADHD suffer from anxiety. This condition is often related to stress. The symptoms include constant worrying and a feeling that all is not well. The anxiety is often the result of having low self-esteem. Self-esteem problems are caused by past failures and a feeling of being overwhelmed by future needs. Anxiety is usually treated by a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recognized as a very effective method of assisting people to learn to cope with their anxiety through learned skills and practices.
Adults with ADHD are nearly three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. People who suffer from depression have a sense of hopelessness. They lack motivation, losing interest in the things that previously they had enjoyed. They may sleep and eat more or less than they had done previously. Depression, which has no definable cause, is thought to be hereditary. In adults with ADHD, the depression is usually caused by years of living with undiagnosed ADHD, which has left them with self-esteem problems. Adults are frequently diagnosed with depression rather than ADHD. Anti depressants generally work well with ADHD medication and usually relief is swift. CBT is an effective intervention in the relief of depression in adults. Aerobic exercise is also good for both depression and anxiety.
Bipolar Mood Disorder
It can be very difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of ADHD and bipolar mood disorder. It is thought that as many as 20% of adults have both ADHD and BMD. There are discernable differences between the two conditions. While ADHD is present from birth, BMD normally only takes effect after the age of 18. BMD comes and goes but ADHD is a chronic condition, which is always present. If the two conditions are diagnosed as being present, initial treatment is likely to be for BMD, and ADHD treatment will follow. The treatment of both disorders is reported to be effective.
Most anxiety and depressive disorders are mild to moderate and can be treated with the appropriate drugs. ADHD medication will only work effectively if the coexisting conditions are effectively treated. A combination of medication, behavior therapy and lifestyle changes can help the adult sufferer reduce the symptoms of ADHD and the coexisting conditions.