ADHD in Adulthood
Studies suggest that around 10-60% of ADHD cases diagnosed in childhood continue to show the disorder as adults.
ADHD is an acronym for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is not an acquired disorder, it develops in childhood and continues to adulthood in some cases. The patient experiences problems in paying attention or focusing, showing hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Some people only face the problem of concentration or focusing and do not show other symptoms i.e. hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Such cases are known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Signs and symptoms of adult ADHD
- The patient finds it difficult to start any work
- They are not able to organise and prioritise things
- The patient finds it difficult to show persistence in tasks requiring continuous mental effort
- Impulsive behaviour
- Forgetfulness, high levels of impatience, restlessness, and mood swings
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Patients complain of impairment at work or home
- They have a hard time maintaining relationships
- Substance abuse is also reported in some cases
- ADHD in adults is often accompanied by psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, learning disabilities and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- ADHD may go unnoticed in many cases due to a lack of visible symptoms.
- Hyperactivity decreases in adults while inattentiveness remains the same as in childhood.
- Some patients may even find it difficult to perform daily activities in a proper manner. For example, reckless driving is commonly observed in ADHD adults.
Daily struggles of ADHD adults
ADHD adults are more likely to
- Perform poorly in school and get lower grades
- Get in trouble frequently
- Drop out of school/college
- Face problems at work and have changed jobs often
- Be unhappy with their jobs and also succeed less
- Violate traffic rules and get their license suspended
- Smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and have drugs
- Face marital issues and get divorced more often
- Often also suffer from other disorders i.e. mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychiatric disorders or learning disabilities, which make their daily lives more challenging.
Causes & Risk factors
ADHD is known to be an inherited neurodevelopmental disorder. It is caused by a lack of neurotransmitter monoamines. Some major causes and risk factors which aggravate the chances of individuals suffering from ADHD are;
- Genetics: the presence of some mutations or genes may make a person susceptible
- Environmental factors: exposure to toxins such as lead can cause ADHD
- Developmental problems: use of drugs/nicotine during pregnancy by the mother can result in the child having ADHD.
- Neurophysiological factors: differences in brain anatomy, electrical activity or metabolism
- Family history of ADHD or other mental disorder
- Premature birth
It is often difficult to diagnose ADHD as the symptoms are confused with anxiety, depression and other mental illness. There are no biological tests to determine if a person has ADHD. The major criteria for diagnosis include ruling out the presence of other psychological problems, keeping account of the person’s behaviour, checking childhood history of ADHD, and getting to know about the patient from their family, partners, and friends.
ADHD cannot be treated per se, it can only be managed through some modifications and therapies. Consider taking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps a person become more organised and finish tasks easily. ADHD can also be managed through;
- Raising awareness and educating the patient about their condition
- Changing lifestyle habits to have a balanced diet and avoid the consumption of alcohol and drugs
- Getting enough sleep, regular exercise and avoiding stress
- Therapy, counselling and joining support groups
- Support from friends and family
- Medications such as stimulants (Dexmethylphenidate, Dextroamphetamine, Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), non-stimulants (Atomoxetine, Clonidine, Guanfacine)
- Brain imaging techniques which will focus on the brain’s response towards stimulus hold promise in the near future