Until the 1980's, there was a widely held belief that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) outgrew it when they reached adulthood. Now, it seems apparent that 50-70% of those individuals diagnosed in childhood will continue to have problems stemming from the disorder in adulthood.
In my practice I treat children, teens and adults with ADHD who have problems in relationships, work, and school. General symptoms of the disorder include poor attention during tedious activities, excessive distractibility, physical restlessness/hyperactivity, excessive impulsivity, saying or doing things without thinking, excessive and chronic procrastination, difficulty gettting started on tasks, frequently losing things, poor organization, planning, and time management skills, excessive forgetfulness, and hypersensitivity.
Some people have the inattentive subtype of ADHD that does not include the hyperactivity. These people may appear daydreamy or spaced out.
The primary difference between childhood ADHD and adult ADHD is that the outward hyperactivity seen in childhood becomes more of an internal restlessness in adults. The adult may still bounce a leg up and down or tap a pencil on the table during a meeting but has lived long enough to learn how to control the impulse to jump out of his seat or run around the room.
It is obvious that people who suffer from ADHD can have serious difficulties with daily living, meeting the demands of school and work and negotiating the complexities of intimate relationships.
A patient's spouse may initiate therapy and complain that his or her mate doesn't seem to be listening during conversations, gets upset easily over minor things and appears distracted and bored during sex. In addition, there may be multiple unfinished projects lying around the house, weeks of home repair projects that need to be done and a financial nightmare in the making.
ADHD rarely travels alone. Substance abuse, gambling addiction, depression, anxiety, behavior disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder are a few commonly associated disorders.
If left untreated, an individual may be destined to a life of school and work failures and social rejection.
ADHD is thought to be a brain disorder largely caused by improper functioning of the pre-frontal cortex which is the area of the brain that is the supervisor. It helps us make plans, stay focused, and make good decisions. In ADHD this part of the brain appears to be underactive especially during tedious activities. During stimulating or novel activities it can turn on and someone playing a video game or racing a motorcycle can remain focused for long periods of time. This often confuses people who see a child or spouse highly focused when it is something he or she enjoys.
Also implicated is the basal ganglia which is responsible for setting the body's idling speed. Problems in this area of the brain lead to anxiety, fear, and panic.
Genetics seem to play the largest role in the origin of ADHD. Twenty-five percent of closely related relatives to someone with ADHD will have ADHD. It is not caused by bad parenting, or poor discipline, and research has shown that diets restricting sugar and food additives helped only five percent of children with ADHD, and those usually had food allergies. Head trauma, oxygen deprivation during birth, and cigarette and alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy may be correlated with increased risk of the disorder.
Good treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis and the earlier the better. A physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or clinical social worker who has experience and training treating ADHD can make the diagnosis. A clinical interview, supporting information from family members and teachers, behavior rating scales, computerized response tests, a medical examination, intelligence testing, and school records can be a part of the diagnostic process.
Medication alone is bad treatment. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan it can be life changing. Approximately eighty percent of those with ADHD seem to be helped by medication. Medication appears to improve functioning in the brain structures mentioned earlier and increase attention, focus and follow through. This means the individual can be his or best self. Stimulant medications and some antidepressants have been proven to be highly effective. Your physician can help you make the best decision.
Because those with ADHD have problems with organization, structure is a primary goal. Use a master calendar, and a day planner, wear a watch with an alarm, have a daily routine, make to do lists, and ask someone to hold you accountable. A therapist or family member can operate like a coach. Neurofeedback is helpful for some people. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people identify self-defeating beliefs and behavior patterns and change them. Social skills training can help people improve their likeability and therefore improve their chances for successful relationships. A healthy diet and regular exercise can be very helpful.
ADHD does not have to be a curse and it can be advantageous in certain careers. Those with ADHD are often extremely intelligent and creative. If you think you or someone you know has ADHD encourage them to research on the internet. There are some very good websites like addresources.org, and about.add.com and some excellent books. "Healing ADD" by Daniel Amen and "Driven to Distraction" by William Hallowell and John Ratey are a couple.