According to the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD is a condition that impacts behaviour and is usually detected in childhood at around ages 3-7 years, particularly during transitional periods like when starting school. People who experience ADHD may feel impulsive, restless, have difficulty focusing, trouble sleeping, and possibly feel anxious. Symptoms usually improve over time, but not always which means that difficulties relating to ADHD can persist into adulthood, and this is all the more challenging if ADHD was not detected in childhood, as sometimes happens.
Two Attention Disorders
There are two types of behavioural problems that derive from ADHD. These are inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing), and hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It’s true that people diagnosed with ADHD experience both types, but not always. Around 20-30% of people experience difficulties with concentration and focusing and not with hyperactivity and impulsivity. These individuals are experiencing a form of ADHD known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but because ADD is not as obvious as ADHD it can go undiagnosed. And because women are socialised to behave less overtly than men, they often go undiagnosed, which is why these conditions are more often diagnosed in men. So it can be helpful to notice inattentiveness in women.
Adult ADHD Symptoms
Experts suggest that adults who experience ADHD may demonstrate it in the following ways:
- A lack of attention to detail;
- Leaving tasks unfinished, only to start new ones;
- Lacking organisational skills;
- Not being able to focus;
- An inability to prioritise;
- Losing or misplacing items;
- Poor memory;
- Being restless and anxious;
- Speaking out of turn;
- Difficulty remaining quiet, blurting things out and interrupting others;
- Experiencing unstable moods (for example, short temperedness, irritability);
- Being very impatient;
- Being unable to manage stress;
- Risk taking behaviour which can risk themselves or others (for example, dangerous driving);
- Difficulties with socialising and relationships.
Difficulty In Detecting Adult ADHD Symptoms
ADHD is considered a developmental disorder so even if it diagnosed later in life (in adulthood for example), it’s thought to have been present from childhood. In adults however, the symptoms are trickier to identify because there is a lot less research into adult ADHD. The way symptoms like inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness impact children can be very different to how they do adults and can also appear less overtly. In addition, as individuals who experience ADHD grow into adulthood, hyperactivity has been shown to lessen, but inattentiveness usually remains as life demands increase.
Related Conditions In Adults With ADHD
There is no definitive known cause for ADHD however some correlations have emerged.
Brain studies have identified several possible differences in those with ADHD compared to those without it. Scans reveal the brains of people who experience ADHD are smaller in some areas, and larger in others, than the brains of people who do not experience ADHD. Studied have also shown that there may be a neurotransmitter malfunction or imbalance in those who experience ADHD.
Genetic inheritance; ADHD has been seen to run in families and tends to be found in the parent(s) and siblings of those who experience it.
Other potential risk factors include being born prematurely (pre 37th week of pregnancy); Being low birthweight; Environmental factors like being born to a mother who used substances during pregnancy (these include cigarettes and alcohol); Experiencing learning difficulties; Having epilepsy; Or brain damage that occurred in the womb or later in life.
How To Get Help
If you suspect you have undiagnosed ADHD as an adult, then speaking to your GP is an option. Even though your GP will be unable to offer a formal diagnosis, they can carry out a preliminary assessment and refer you for specialist assessment with a mental health professional if appropriate. At the very least, seeking a diagnosis can rule out ADHD, or lead to getting the appropriate support, should a diagnosis emerge.
Treatment Of Adult ADHD
There is no cure for ADHD, however there is support available. For example, adults are usually offered ADHD medications, although therapies can also be of benefit. For example, psychoeducation, behavioural therapy, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), these can teach individuals how to better manage symptoms and day to day challenges. Often a combination of medicine and therapy is recommended, however it is important to learn about and consider the implications of each for yourself, carefully (such as side effects of medication). Other things that might help include reviewing diet and supplementation, something Phinity therapists can offer.
ADHD Effects - Living With Someone Who Is Impacted By ADHD
Individuals who experience ADHD can feel restless, impatient, impulsive, partake in risk-taking behaviour, and find it difficult to manage stress. They may also find it hard to organise and manage their time, to focus on or complete tasks, and follow instructions. Some people with ADHD also struggle with social interactions and relationships. So, it can be challenging, but it is important to remember that there are reasons for it, and that there is support available to you if you experience ADHD or live with someone who does.
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