Up to 78% of children with attention and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) will carry the symptoms into adulthood, and up to 50% of these adults will have debilitating symptoms. Hyperactivity and impulsivity may decrease in adulthood but problems with executive function and inattention often remain.
Diagnosing ADHD in adults can be difficult, as ADHD presents with symptoms that are similar to bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Adults with the disorder tend to struggle with higher education, and unless they have fast paced jobs that involve risk taking or outgoing communication, they may struggle to remain in employment. These people also tend to have a lot more problems with relationships, higher divorce rates, traffic violations and substance abuse problems. Adults with ADHD have a high risk of having children with ADHD.
Symptoms in adult sufferers
The ADHD symptoms in adults differ slightly from those experienced by children. Adult sufferers lack attention to detail. They jump from task to task without finishing anything. They normally have poor organizational skills and are unable to prioritize properly. They are constantly losing things. They are restless and edgy, finding it difficult to keep quiet, often speaking out of turn. They suffer from mood swings and irritability and they are short tempered. They do not deal well with stress. They may suffer from anxiety, depression and chronic boredom. They are often late and forgetful. They procrastinate and suffer from low motivation. They take risks with no consideration for safety. These are the reasons why adults with ADHD have difficulty with relationships at home and at work.
At least five of these symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of ADHD in adults seventeen years and older. The symptoms must be present in more than one environmental setting. The symptoms must have begun before the age of twelve. They must cause significant dysfunction and they should not be caused by another medical condition
Although it may have gone undiagnosed, every adult that has ADHD had it as a child. Adult ADHD appears to affect men and women equally.
Diagnosis of Adult sufferers
Adults suffering from ADHD should find themselves a good psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in treating adult ADHD. Adult treatment includes medication, therapy and changes in lifestyle. Medication assists the patient with concentration, allowing him to complete work in the allotted time. Therapy is used to overcome anxiety and stress and to regain self-esteem, which may have been lost due to failures caused by ADHD. Lifestyle changes include a healthy low GI diet.
A medical professional, when faced with the possibility of an ADHD diagnosis in an adult patient, is likely to suggest that diagnosis should start with a physical examination to rule out any medical condition. Blood samples should be sent for testing. Psychological evaluation will be required, and questions will be asked about childhood history, specifically with regard to schooling and behavioral problems. Family history of ADHD will also be investigated.
A thorough examination is important as a diagnosis of ADHD is often accompanied by diagnoses of other disorders such as mood disorders, learning disabilities and substance abuse. These must all be considered when a treatment plan is formulated.
Stimulant medications are often prescribed for adults and studies show that these medications do help around two-thirds of people taking them.
Stimulants are not ideal as they can be addictive and ADHD sufferers already have a predisposition for substance abuse. ADHD sufferers also have short-term memory problems so remembering to take the stimulants can be a problem. Many people prefer not to take them in the evening so they may have trouble focusing on what has to be done at home. If they continue to take them in the evening they may be tempted to have a drink to relax.
There are also non-stimulant drugs available. Therapy and behavioral treatments are also available.
Advice for adults with ADHD
People with ADHD should choose a career that stimulates them and allows them to use their creativity. They should carefully plan their day, using available electronic equipment such as cell phones to remind them of commitments. Exercise or sports can help work off some of their excess energy. Medication should be taken as directed and side effects should be discussed with a doctor.
Often adults learn coping mechanisms for dealing with the symptoms of ADHD. Failure to seek help when the symptoms are severe is likely to result in difficulties with relationships at home and at the workplace. Therapy, behavioral treatments, and medication are available for those who are diagnosed with ADHD.