Many people equate ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) with only children. Up until the 1990s, it was commonly thought that ADHD disappeared in adulthood. However, recent studies have shown that at least 50% of children will continue to have symptoms as adults. Some people with ADHD don’t receive a diagnosis until adulthood. While symptoms were usually present in childhood in these cases, they may have been misdiagnosed or gone unnoticed. ADHD presents itself in three different types:
- Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD — This type is characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity and restlessness.
- Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD — People with inattentive type tend to have difficulty sustaining attention.
- Combined Type ADHD — In combined type, people will experience symptoms of both the two above types equally.
Signs of Adult ADHD
Symptoms of hyperactivity tend to decrease as a person ages, but the other symptoms of ADHD can remain the same. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. Below are signs of adult ADHD.
- Distractibility - Adults with ADHD can be easily distractible. Phone calls, interruptions or noises can easily cause a loss of focus. Sustaining focus is even more difficult when the task is uninteresting to them. On the contrary, many people with ADHD can hyperfocus on activities they are highly interested in.
- Trouble Listening - Staying present in a conversation, meeting or seminar is often challenging for adults with ADHD. This can make holding a conversation difficult. Oftentimes, they miss important details and need clarification.
- Difficulty Starting a Task - If a task requires considerable mental energy, adults with ADHD tend to have a difficult time getting started. This leads to procrastination and unfinished work, sometimes causing strain on their marital and work relationships.
- Disorganization - The completion of tasks is often further impeded by struggling to get organized. Materials may be strewn about in several places and important items may frequently go missing.
- Forgetfulness and Careless Mistakes - Disorganization often leads to forgetfulness. These adults may miss important appointments or forget to perform a task. When they are working through tasks, they may miss details and make careless mistakes.
- Restlessness and Impulsive Behavior - An adult with ADHD, particularly hyperactive-impulsive type, will often feel restless. They may feel the need to fidget or get up out of their seat at inappropriate times. Impulsive behavior is common. They may interrupt others in the middle of a conversation or intrude when people are busy.
- Many adults with ADHD also have a co-morbid mental illness. About 50% have an anxiety disorder.
Many of the symptoms of ADHD are experienced to a lesser degree in people without the disorder. What is normal and what is considered ADHD? If it’s the latter, the symptoms will consistently cause a negative impact on a person’s daily life.
Treatment and Coping with ADHD
While these symptoms can cause disruption to everyday life, ADHD is manageable through medication, behavioral changes and therapy.
Stimulants are the primary type of medication used to treat ADHD. These medications can help people with ADHD sustain their attention, think more clearly, and control impulsive behavior. Some medications are short-acting, lasting about four hours. These are taken twice a day. Others are long-acting, taken once a day and lasting eight to twelve hours. If stimulants are not an option, there are a couple of non-stimulant medications that can be used to treat ADHD such as certain antidepressants.
Whether or not a person chooses to use medication, behavioral and lifestyle changes are essential in managing ADHD. These changes might include:
- Setting timers for work and taking frequent breaks.
- Using sticky notes or setting reminders through apps.
- Using organizational tools such as planners.
- Making a list of important tasks for the day and prioritizing important items.
- Following a routine.
- Breaking down tasks into smaller portions.
Therapy is important in helping an individual learn and implement the behavioral and lifestyle changes necessary to cope with ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective with ADHD. Through CBT, they can learn how to change negative patterns of thinking and deal with the challenges brought about by having the disorder. Because people with ADHD tend to also have another comorbid mental illness, it can help them manage their anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
Finding the right treatment option for ADHD takes trial and error. Through time, effort and professional help, a person can learn to manage their ADHD in such a way that they can be successful in work, school, personal life and relationships.
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