Adult ADD and ADHD are far more common than you might think. Although typically we think of ADHD as affecting children, it affects between 2.5 and 4% of American adults. Men are three times more likely to have ADHD than women.
What is ADD? It’s the name for primarily inattentive ADHD, which is a subtype of the disorder.
The other subtypes are:
- Primarily hyperactive-impulsive.
- Primarily combination.
So, while inattentive ADHD used to be known simply as ADD, or attention deficit disorder, it’s now referred to as inattentive ADHD, which distinguishes it from the two other subtypes.
(For simplicity’s sake, this article will refer to primarily inattentive ADHD as ADD.)
One of the biggest problems with adult ADD is that it’s quite easy for it to go undiagnosed. By the time someone starts to wonder if they have an attention deficit disorder, they’ve been dealing with it since childhood. And it can affect every facet of their life, from their relationships to their work and their hobbies, personal care, and home organization. But all of these issues might seem like typical struggles since they’ve been going on for so long.
An ADHD diagnosis can unlock the key to many struggles you’ve faced throughout your life. If you or someone close to you think you might have adult ADD or ADHD, keep reading to learn more.
Diagnosing Adult ADD: What Are the Symptoms?
So, how do professionals arrive at a diagnosis? Here is how the DSM-V describes ADD symptoms, and how adults can identify the symptoms they may have for themselves. (It’s important to note that a medical or mental health professional must be the one to diagnose ADHD.)
The DSM-V, which is the diagnostic manual for professionals to identify symptoms, lists nine symptoms of ADHD. To be diagnosed, an adult (17+) must have six of the nine symptoms and must be able to identify that they had symptoms that occurred in childhood as well.According to ADDitude Mag, adult ADD can be easily misdiagnosed as a mood disorder, including anxiety or depression. While the disorders could co-occur, it’s crucial to recognize that they are not the same thing.
The diagnostic symptoms of ADHD are:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, etc.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or activities (e.g., easily distracted).
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over an extended period.
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g., school materials, wallet, mobile phone).
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
- Often distracted by stimuli
(Source: American Psychiatric Association)
One of the biggest stigmas about ADHD is that an inability to concentrate means an inability to understand. The APA underscores that this is not the case. Though a person with ADHD may struggle to complete tasks, focus in school, and perform well at work throughout their life, their brain struggles to focus and concentrate. Their innate intelligence is unrelated.
What Are the Effects of ADHD?
ADD is linked to many negative outcomes in your life. The symptoms can cause a domino effect. These outcomes are not symptoms but are often caused by or linked to adult ADD.
ADDitude Mag and Healthline offer several examples of common problems adult ADD can cause:
Tasks and projects never get finished. An adult with ADHD will often start working on them but lose focus and concentration and fail to follow through, which can cause negative ripple effects at school, work, and home.
Disorganization is common. It’s extremely challenging for ADHD adults to have the focus and follow-through to keep their lives organized.
Hyper focus can also happen. On the other side, some adults with ADHD tend to get hyper-focused on one particular task or project and forget everything else going on around them.
People with ADHD are often accused of laziness. ADHD and laziness are not the same thing, but the procrastination, unfinished tasks, and scattered focus caused by the disorder can look like laziness to others, or even to yourself. This can lead to negative effects on self-esteem. Many adults with ADHD wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
Frequently losing important items. Do you often wonder where you put your keys or phone? Do you lose things on a daily basis? This is one of the most common problems that ADHD tends to cause.
Being more susceptible to misusing substances, especially in the attempt to achieve focus and get things done.
Effects on relationships and self-esteem. Other people don’t understand why you struggle with organization and follow-through, and you might blame yourself for “character flaws,” while not understanding that the problem is your brain struggling to focus.
Effects on physical health. Adult ADHD can make it more difficult to engage in self-care and follow through with a consistently healthy diet and exercise. It can also cause fatigue.
For an adult struggling with these negative outcomes, what is the next step in exploring a possible diagnosis? According to WebMD, “In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, an adult must have persistent, current symptoms that date to childhood. ADHD symptoms continue as problems into adulthood for up to half of children with ADHD.”
If you recognize many of these symptoms and effects of ADHD in your life, contact your doctor, or call us at [Christian Counseling] at [phone #] to speak to a licensed counselor. Your counselor can also work with your doctor to assess your symptoms and decide on a treatment plan.
Getting a diagnosis doesn’t need to be stigmatized. In fact, it can lead to great healing and freedom, no matter what treatment plan you choose.
Treatment for Adult ADD and ADHD
A common feeling after receiving an ADHD diagnosis is that of relief. ADDitude Mag describes one man who received his diagnosis and said, “The emotion around my failures and struggles started to evaporate. It’s neurology, not a lack of moral fiber.”
There can be a lot of shame associated with having problems at work, home, and in relationships related to a lack of organization and follow-through. A diagnosis can help you sort out the problem and start to receive treatment or make adjustments to improve your quality of life, which will improve all these other areas.
A common struggle with ADHD is having lots of good ideas, but almost always failing to follow through with the daily, detailed work needed to see them through. The low self-esteem linked to the disorder can come from feeling constantly defeated in your good intentions or wondering if you’re just not that smart. (As mentioned before, ADHD is not an intelligence issue, but a concentration issue.)
Once you’ve identified the root cause behind these difficulties, you can address that, instead of attempting to follow a one-size-fits-all self-improvement model that can just leave you feeling more discouraged in the end.
Another adult who received an ADHD diagnosis tried taking medicine to treat it, but she experienced unpleasant side effects, so manages it in other ways now, but says that simply understanding the problem is the best treatment. (ADDitude Mag) Whether or not you and your doctor choose the medication route, there are multiple options for managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
So, what are the most common treatment options for adult ADHD?
Therapy or counseling, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you cope with and improve your symptoms. In counseling, you can also address any co-occurring issues like anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.
Medication. Talk to your doctor and counselor about what medication might be appropriate for you, but also know that you don’t have to use medication to treat ADHD, and you may be able to manage it in other ways. If you do choose to use medication, know that there is nothing wrong with needing it to quiet your brain and improve your focus.
Lifestyle changes. Counseling can help you stay consistent with lifestyle changes and positive coping mechanisms tailored to your specific situation.
You don’t have to live with the negative symptoms and outcomes of adult ADHD. Contact Seattle Christian Counseling today to find help and know that you are not alone.
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