I was recently diagnosed as having ADHD – coming to this diagnosis as an adult was difficult but life changing. There are plenty of resources for younger people with ADHD but very limited information for Adult ADD and ADHD. This is my quick guide to the condition.
What Is Adult ADD and ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a set of symptoms that can make you hyperactive, impulsive or inattentive. It’s not a condition you can catch, it’s something becomes apparent between the ages of 6 – 12, but it can be missed. Without help and a diagnosis people often develop unhealthy coping strategies which can include obsessive behaviours and/ or alcohol and drug misuse.
Symptoms may include:
- Failure to pay close attention to tasks – causing you to make careless or silly mistakes.
- Difficulty focusing on a single task for any length of time.
- Problems listening to and paying attention to other people.
- Finding organisational tasks difficult.
- Problems finishing work tasks or housework.
- Always losing things. ‘Where are my keys?!’ (sound familiar?)
- Being easily distracted.
- Unable to sit still without fidgeting or moving for any length of time.
What’s the Difference Between ADHD and ADD?
Terms and diagnostic criteria are always changing. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) where generally the two terms used to describe the condition until recently. They are now all grouped together as ADHD.
ADD is now described as ADHD-PI (the PI stands for Predominantly Inattentive) this is ADHD without hyperactivity. People with ADHD-PI tend to suffer from problems with procrastination, forgetfulness, poor concentration and hesitation but are not hyperactive. In fact some people with ADHD-PI suffer from fatigue and lethargy.
ADHD on its own includes these symptoms along with hyperactivity. Often it is easier to diagnose people with this condition as the hyperactivity is very noticeable to other people.
Often sufferers of ADHD-PI are missed at a young age because they do not exhibit hyperactive symptoms, so they don’t stand out. They can often mask their condition and develop their own coping strategies. It is when these sufferers reach adulthood and their responsibilities change rapidly that their coping strategies can unravel and stop working.
Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults
Diagnosing Adult ADD and ADHD involves visiting a psychiatrist who will asses you and decide whether or not your symptoms fit the criteria. They will look at your childhood and also rule out other mental health conditions.
The most direct route to this is to see your Doctor and explain your concerns and ask to be referred to a psychiatrist who specialises in Adult ADHD. Be prepared when you visit your Doctor, have a list of symptoms and reasons why you feel you may suffer from ADHD.
Treatments for ADHD in Adults
A diagnosis will help you gain access to the correct therapies and medications.
There are a few different types of medication on offer to treat ADHD. Generally grouped into stimulant medications and non stimulant medications.
In the UK, ‘Concerta XL’, is usually prescribed for adults with ADHD. This is a slow releasing, stimulant medication. It’s important to discuss with your psychiatrist what is available and what effect the medicine should have on you.
You might also be offered therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT can help you come to terms with the condition and help you to develop new coping strategies.
Suffering from ADHD into adulthood without a diagnosis can lead to problems with obsessive behaviours, anxiety and depression. CBT will help you learn new ways to deal with your difficulties and may help alleviate these problems.
Living With Adult ADHD
Everyone is different but once you understand why you have had difficulty throughout your life it can be a great relief. It can also be difficult as although ADHD can be managed better with a diagnosis it is not curable.
Learning to accept your limitations and work around them can greatly improve your quality of life and often medication will transform your ability to do things that were once very difficult.
You will learn new things every day about how to cope with Adult ADD and ADHD. It’s important to bear in mind that whilst medication will alleviate symptoms, there is now quick fix. You never stop learning new things that can help.
A Couple of Super Helpful Resources!
ADDitutde Magazine – Fantastic help when coming to terms with ADHD
NHS info on ADHD – Well written helpful advice