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What is Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?
Many adults may suffer from ADD/ ADHD and not know it. Like ADHD in children and teens, ADHD in adults can make life challenging. ADHD can make it difficult for adults to feel organized, enjoy their work, or be punctual. Adults with ADHD may have trouble in relationships. The disorder can also make adults feel restless. Problems generally associated with ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can struggle with difficulties in one or more areas of daily life.
Common signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults include:
- Poor concentration
- Short attention span
- Lack of organization
- Difficulty starting and/or finishing projects
- Moving from one task to another, being involved in too many projects simultaneously
- Time-management issues, such as overestimating available time or the time it takes to finish a task
- Making impulsive decisions, poor planning, impulsive spending
- Difficulty interacting with others, interrupting others
Not every person with ADHD reports all these symptoms, nor do they experience the severity of ADHD symptoms to the same degree.
Diagnosis of Adult ADD/ADHD
Most adults occasionally experience inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive behaviors from time to time. Every person has an occasional experience of misplacing keys, getting distracted at work, blurting out something on impulse or interrupting inadvertently. However, for adults with ADHD, these symptoms appear more often and may create challenges in the workplace.
There is no single laboratory test used to determine an ADHD diagnosis. Usually, the diagnosis of Adult ADD/ADHD is confirmed by specialized Neuropsychological Assessment. The sooner you get an evaluation and an ADHD diagnosis, the faster you can start effectively managing your symptoms.
How is it different to childhood ADHD?
Unlike other mental disorders such as depression, ADHD does not start in adulthood. However, many adults who had symptoms of ADHD as children did not get formally diagnosed. As a matter of fact, adult parents of children with ADHD first notice their own ADHD symptoms at the time that their children get diagnosed. Adult ADHD is a continuation of ADHD from childhood. The main difference is in the type of difficulties and symptoms experienced.
Adults with ADHD are less likely to have intense hyperactivity. Instead, they are more likely to feel restless, fidget a lot, have difficulty relaxing and feel on edge a lot of the time. A typical ADHD adult may have gone through life being constantly misunderstood. A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is frequently very liberating to a person who has struggled all his or her life with symptoms that they could not define or understand. Smoking, drinking alcohol and, in some cases, drug use are also more common among ADHD adults.
Why is ADD/ADHD underdiagnosed so frequently?
Many barriers exist to timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment of ADD/ADHD. Parents frequently avoid diagnosing and treating their children out of fear of identifying their child as being ‘different’ from others. Some parents cannot tolerate the narcissistic injury of believing that their children are less than perfect. ADD/ADHD treatment for children is frequently terminated prematurely due to mistaking the natural progression of ADD symptoms for improvement. As ADD symptoms progress from hyperactive/impulsive to inattentive/disorganized, the child is seen as improved, and the treatment is terminated too early. Frequently, adolescents/ young adults, showing symptoms of inattention /disorganization, are viewed as being lazy or in need of harsher parenting. Most Primary Care Physicians, by self-admission, do not feel comfortable diagnosing and treating Adult ADD/ADHD. As a result, most Adult ADD/ADHD patients are not screened for their symptoms when they see their doctors.
Medications for ADHD
Most ADHD symptoms improve safely, quickly with effective medications. When patients experience the positive effect of medication for the first time, they feel profound relief. The effect is so sudden and dramatic that it is frequently compared to the effect of putting on glasses and seeing clearly for the first time. Stimulants are believed to enhance the availability of the brain’s chemical messengers Dopamine and Norepinephrine.
These messengers play a role in behaviors like attention and movement. The stimulants include medications like Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Adderall XR, Vyvanse, Focalin, and others. As long as stimulant medications are used as prescribed, they can alleviate symptoms safely. Stimulant medications have a history of being misused. Wholesome Psychiatry, LLC enforces strict policies and procedures that prevent misuse of stimulants, including having our patients sign a stimulant use agreement and requiring them to participate in random tox screens. Wholesome Psychiatry, LLC has a policy of prescribing stimulants only to patients who need stimulants to improve their overall life functioning. Wholesome Psychiatry, LLC uses longer-acting stimulants first, whenever possible. If stimulant misuse becomes a problem, Strattera becomes the medication of choice. Other, non-FDA approved, but frequently used medications are Desipramine, Effexor, and Buproprion.