Typically, if you are someone who has no experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you may have a memory associated with it as that one kid in class who just couldn’t sit still, or maybe you were the one kid in class who couldn’t sit still.In 2016, 6.1 million children were diagnosed with ADHD. The data for adults diagnosed with ADHD can be overlooked, as the co-occurring symptoms could be misdiagnosed as the primary diagnosis. Adults with ADHD exhibit dyslexia, somatic issues, and significant psychiatric disorders. Adults with an ADHD diagnosis, if assessed in childhood, would have been considered severe childhood cases.
Studies confirm that females with ADHD tend to report more severe current ADHD symptoms than males. The question is then, how are severe cases overlooked in childhood and still unrecognized as adults? The reason is adults have adapted the symptoms into behavior. When an adult seeks care, it is usually for a symptom of depression or anxiety, which are symptoms that are in and of themselves treated independently.
Another problem of living into adulthood without being diagnosed as a child is that the depression and anxiety symptoms impact the quality of life and life satisfaction. To give an example of a diagnosis increase, in 2015 7,782 cases of adult ADHD were diagnosed. In 2018, 17,264 were diagnosed.
Studies show adults aged 18-37 the behavioral symptoms are inattention and disorganization which stem from the executive functioning region of the brain. Inattention is expressed as slower response speeds and hyperactivity-impulsivity disorganization.
Adult ADHD Symptoms
Adult ADHD symptoms include:
- Poor school or work performance
- Financial problems
- Trouble with the law
- Alcohol or other substance misuse
- Frequent car accidents or other accidents
- Unstable relationships
- Poor physical and mental health
- Poor self-image
- Suicide attempts
Mental health conditions which adults may experience include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Intermittent explosive disorder
- Learning disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Another outcome of adult ADHD symptoms is persistent problems paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior which can lead to unstable relationships, poor work habits, and low self-esteem. The level of severity is different individually in adults, and many adults are not aware they have it.
Adults can find it difficult to prioritize and focus, miss deadlines, or forget social plans. Inability to control impulsiveness can impact waiting in line, driving in traffic, have mood swings, and outbursts of anger.
What causes adult ADHD symptoms? Genetics has a strong role in adult ADHD. Studies how genes play a role, especially if you have a parent or sibling with ADHD or another mental health disorder. Environment can increase risk and problems during development may impact the development of the central nervous systems. If your mother smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy, or there were substantial amounts of environmental toxins, or you were born early, these are all issues that increase the risk of having adult ADHD symptoms.
Co-occurring conditions in adults made worse by ADHD include:
Mood disorders: While mood problems aren’t necessarily due directly to ADHD, a repeated pattern of failures and frustrations due to ADHD can worsen depression.
Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders occur often in adults with ADHD. Anxiety can be made worse by the challenges and setbacks caused by ADHD.
Other psychiatric disorders: Adults with ADHD are at increased risk of other psychiatric disorders, such as personality disorders, intermittent explosive disorder, and substance use disorders.
Learning disabilities: Learning disabilities can include problems with understanding and communicating.
Assessing and obtaining a diagnosis should come from a psychologist or psychiatrist. The DSM-5 reports increasing evidence that symptoms are fluid across an individual’s lifespan rather than being a part of one’s stable traits. The gold standard of diagnosing is data collection from teachers, parents, and family.
There is no single test for ADHD, however, Daniel Amen, MD has designed an online quiz to assess ADHD through his 7-types of ADHD in adults. Dr. Amens’ Type Test can be taken at the Amen Clinics Website, https://addtypetest.com/.
Dr. Amen addresses the challenges associated with adult ADHD in natural ways which support brain health along with the individual’s ADHD Type determined by his test. The test is free and will only require an email address to have the results sent directly to your inbox. Additude also offers a free ADHD test: https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-symptoms-test-adults/.
Spirituality and ADHD
Spirituality and ADHD bring additional challenges. Studies show that belief in a higher power contributes to positive outcomes, however, many within the church consider the disorder to be a spiritual problem.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not hard you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29-11
The verse reminds us of our is a strong belief that God does not make mistakes. Christian integration of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used as an intervention to provide support. Reading the Bible helps one face the day with strength and grace, for example.
Praying for guidance on how to intervene and manage symptoms of ADHD individually and as a family, is another. An adult with ADHD in the throws on experiencing ADHD anger or other symptoms can recite the serenity prayer, as this too shall pass.
On the pharmacology front, there are many interventions available to those seeking pharmaceutical assistance. It is important to remember the best strategies for management are multimodal and work best when pharmaceuticals are taken with proper nutrition, exercise, supplements, and joining an ADHD support group.
Talk to your general practitioner about finding the right prescribing professional. Medication is usually the first line of defense and studies show, medication to be most effective 80% of the time. Things to expect are:
- Finding the right medication can take time, so be patient.
- Every medication has a side effect, the goal is zero or minimal.
- Open and honest communication with the prescribing doctor during the initial phases of treatment is key.
- Medication is not a magic solution. It manages symptoms and is not a cure for the disorder.
Utilizing in conjunction with medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach has a lot of success. For example, changing a habit because of the disorder is done mindfully. For example, to address symptoms of procrastination. First, understand the motivation for the behavior. Secondly, develop with a therapist a treatment plan for changing problematic behavior. Lastly, implement strategies and safety plans if the initial strategies fail.
It is important to remember, adult ADHD is mostly undiagnosed in many adults and had been mistakenly labeled another disorder, such as a mood or anxiety disorder. Getting in to see a mental health professional for an assessment of ADHD could be life-changing, and more importantly, life-enhancing! For more information, go to https://seattlechristiancounseling.com/counselPors/jill-howard, and make an appointment today.
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Confused”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Disequilibrium”, Courtesy of Elina Araja, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Conference Call”, Courtesy of Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels.com, CC0 License