Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD is a medical disorder involving abnormalities in brain function. Often, this disorder can be passed genetically through families from one generation to the next. The condition is generally diagnosed in childhood, however we now know that ADHD commonly continues into adulthood. Although the hyperactivity component usually subsides in adults, attention and concentration problems often persist. If not caught in childhood, adults often become suspicious they may have adult ADHD when their children is diagnosed, and they recognize the same set of symptoms in themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately four percent of adults have the disorder. The risk increases in those people who have close blood relatives (parents, siblings, etc) who also have ADHD, in people who were born prematurely or were exposed to environmental toxins, or those who were born to mothers who smoked, drank alcohol, or abused drugs during their pregnancy.
Signs of ADHD in Adults
The following can be warning signs of adult ADHD:
- Reckless driving or frequent traffic tickets or accidents
- Problems paying bills on time
- Job hopping or habitual unemployment, being late to work frequently, trouble staying on task if you’re distracted by emails or phone calls
- Alcohol or substance abuse problems
- Some marital troubles, especially if your partner grumbles that you don’t listen to them or that you don’t honor promises you made to them
- Frequently forgetting appointments, forgetting to run errands or do things like getting gas or picking up something from the grocery store on the way home
- Underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a task
- Making impulsive or irrational decisions
- Having trouble starting or completing projects at work or at home
- Being tense or edgy or being prone to angry outbursts, even over minor problems
ADHD Symptoms in Adults
The signs that are so telling for ADHD in children are often more subtle when you reach adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a comprehensive list of criteria for adult ADHD symptoms. If five or more of the symptoms on each list are present now and were noticeable before the age of twelve, if they have persisted for more than six months, and if you are age 17 or older, you may have adult ADHD:
- Inattention: Five or more symptoms of inattention for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
- Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
- Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
- There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
- The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
Adult ADHD Treatment
Since the focus of attention deficit hyperactive disorder is normally on children and helping them learn to function through their challenges, if you’ve reached adulthood without an ADHD diagnosis, it may seem silly to consider treatment. However, it is still very important that you address your condition. As noted above, untreated adult ADHD can cause ongoing disruptions in your life, such as workplace or relationship problems, and alcohol or substance abuse.
Adult ADHD treatment can be very effective and can help turn your life around. A combined approach works best. This includes prescribing appropriate ADHD medications to help balance and boost the brain’s neurotransmitters, as well as psychotherapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT teaches life skills in time management and organizational development and provides aids that may allow some people to eventually discontinue their medication. Additionally, couples therapies can be used to help improve communication skills and teach your significant other ways to understand and help with your Adult ADHD condition.
Help for Adult ADHD
It is challenging to have adult ADHD, so don’t go through it alone. The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are here to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.