What is adult ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder characterised by a short attention span and difficulty controlling impulses.
ADHD is a congenital disorder, but it can worsen with age and can be confused with age-related forgetfulness. It is estimated that the rate of ADHD in children is 5%, and between 50% and 70% of these children continue to have the disorder during adult life.
What are the symptoms of adult ADHD?
The symptoms of ADHD in adults can include:
- difficulty with time management
- problems with concentration
- chronic boredom or procrastination
- frequent mood swings
- anxiety and depression
This can cause significant ongoing problems at work – as well as at home and in relationships.
What are the causes of adult ADHD?
The cause of ADHD is unknown, but researchers have pointed to a number of possibilities:
- ADHD may be due to a malfunction of neurotransmitters (messengers) in the area of the brain responsible for the executive system that dominates the capacity for concentration and attention.
- ADHD may be genetic and sometimes runs in families
- ADHD could be a developmental problem caused by issues during pregnancy such as smoking, drinking, or poor nutrition
- ADHD may sometimes be acquired, due to a head injury or exposure to toxic chemicals such as lead
How is adult ADHD diagnosed?
When you visit the GP about ADHD they will ask you about your symptoms, how long you have had them for, and how frequently they occur. If the doctor suspects ADHD you may be referred for a formal assessment. Under current diagnostic guidelines, you cannot be given a formal diagnosis unless you have had symptoms since childhood. To establish whether this is the case the doctor may wish to interview your family members and friends to ask about the history of your symptoms.
What is the treatment for adult ADHD?
The main treatments for adult ADHD include:
- Medication – this can include stimulants or non-stimulant medication to increase attention span and control hyperactive behaviour, or dietary supplements
- Psychotherapy – including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, which can be especially useful if you also struggle with symptoms such as depression and anxiety
The exact combination of medications will vary from person to person as you might experience side effects from the first medication you try.