Adult ADHD. If you’ve been reading along with this article series, you know by now that it’s a thing. This is the third in a series of articles on recognizing Adult ADHD, and more on how to most effectively address it.
Our previous two articles in this series (Part I and Part II) addressed the origins of ADHD going from childhood to adulthood, common symptoms and classifications thereof (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness), as well as known/suspected causes, and types of the disorder (ADHD/Inattentive Type, ADHD/Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined ADHD Type). In this series finale article, we will cover practical ways to recognize, seek treatment, and follow up with your Adult ADHD treatment plan.
About 4% to 5% of adults in the United States have gone from childhood to adulthood with the disorder, but relatively few of them ever get diagnosed and/or treated for it. Below is a more detailed look at what Adult ADHD really looks like.
Review of Adult ADHD Symptoms
Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with one or more of the following, and not yet be aware of their condition:
- Remembering/retaining information
- Meeting deadlines
- Organizing tasks
- Following directions
This list of potential challenges that accompany ADHD for an individual is not exhaustive, but it’s easy to see how such challenges would create problems in more than one area of someone’s life: home, work/school, relationships, etc. As mentioned before, ADHD is treatable and manageable, and those with the disorder can adapt appropriately and lead successful, satisfying lives.
As touched upon in Part II of this series, other consistent, ongoing problems that may manifest themselves for an adult with ADHD include:
- Severe boredom/disillusionment with life
- Low self-esteem/difficulty with social acceptance
- Repeated tardiness/forgetfulness
- Impatience/anger management problems
- Lack of ambition/motivation
- Impulsiveness/behavioral problems
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty staying at any job for long
Some individuals with ADHD may be able to concentrate on something that really interests them, or get enthused/motivated about some project or other. Others with ADHD may have trouble concentrating/focusing frequently. Some seek out stimulation, while others avoid it. Some are introverted and withdrawn, while others are very social. Symptoms may be significant or slight, they may occur often or infrequently—every case is unique.
- Smoke cigarettes
- Get in more auto accidents/get more speeding/traffic tickets
- Have difficulty managing time/finances
- Have more marital/relationship problems
- Higher rates of breakups/separations/divorces
- Multiple failed marriages
Adult ADHD Diagnosis
If you suspect that you might possibly have ADHD as an adult, you should seek out a professional opinion by a trusted referral. Ideally, the mental health professional you consult will have experience with ADHD diagnoses and treatment.
Your mental health professional might consider:
- Sending you to get a physical examination, to eliminate the possibility that another condition other than ADHD is causing your symptoms (e.g., a learning disability, mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc.)
- Performing and analyzing thorough blood work
- Getting as much information as possible regarding your alcohol and drug use
- Performing or referring you for psychological tests
- An in-depth interview about your medical/family history to gather as much data as possible (ADHD does seem to have a driving genetic component)
The jury might still be out regarding at what precise age ADHD can reliably be diagnosed at first, but mental health professionals and experts will all agree that no one has ever been known to suddenly develop the disorder as an adult. Your clinician will likely “dig deep” regarding what you remember about your social adjustment, academic performance, how well you got along (or didn’t) with friends and siblings, as well as other behavioral patterns you had as a child. He or she may even consult with your parents to be thorough.
Adult ADHD Treatment
If your clinician does indicate that you have ADHD, the opportunity will present itself for him or her to develop a customized treatment plan – such a plan may include therapy and medication, as well as getting you educated on the subject, getting you up to speed with management tactics, and helping you enroll your family for moral support.
By following this treatment plan, you will be able to find creative ways to navigate your daily life more effectively, and moving forward in this manner, in and of itself, should give you a huge boost in confidence right away. It will be of great benefit to you to take your mental health professional’s advice to heart and to follow his or her directives (i.e., consistency in taking medication as prescribed, practicing tools and techniques, etc.). Any side effects or setbacks you notice should be reported to your clinician right away.
Adult ADHD Medication
- Stimulants – stimulant medications (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Focalin, Dexedrine, etc.) are commonly used to treat ADHD in adults with a good success rate. Though stimulants can be successful in treatment, they can also be addictive, they can be difficult to remember to take daily for someone with ADHD, and they can lead to other unhealthy habits, such as drinking an alcoholic beverage in the evening to “unwind.”
- Non-Stimulants –Your clinician might possibly prescribe a non-stimulant (e.g., Kapvay, Strattera, Intuniv).for you to take on its own, or in conjunction with a stimulant.
Therapy and Other Behavioral Treatments
Your clinician and you might consider some combination of the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a “psycho-social” approach directed at improving mental health. CBT helps condition the individual to develop an awareness of and to challenge counterproductive attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs about oneself. Throughout the process, the individual learns to develop and integrate healthier coping strategies and problem-solving skills. It is a powerful self-esteem booster.
- Stress Management Training/Relaxation Techniques. Learning how to manage stress and relax in healthy ways can help lower anxiety, stress, and other physiological problems (e.g., high blood pressure, problems sleeping, obesity).
- Life/Career coaching and mentoring. If you feel uncomfortable setting and achieving goals, maybe you need to consult with someone who can help you challenge yourself more. A coach/mentor can help you learn to set and reach goals, as well as to improve productivity, organizational skills, and performance in critical areas of your life, including in the development of meaningful and healthy relationships with others.
- Educating your support group. For your family and friends to better be able to support you throughout your treatment and on, it will help to get them up to speed on what ADHD is, and on how they can help and support you better.
Take note and see if you can’t start implementing some of the following to get yourself going right away:
- Get organized. Start with daily to-do lists (you don’t need to kill yourself, just be consistent), and get in the habit of getting them knocked out every day. Start using a planner, or a scheduling app on your phone; take notes to help you remember important tasks and events. Set reminders.
- Eliminate distractions. Loud music, television, noisy environments. Learn how to focus better on where you are and on what you’re doing by minimizing distractions in your environment.
- Deep, meditative breathing. Individuals with ADHD often have relationship problems with others because they are impatient in conversation, ineffective listeners, they can often do counterproductive things impulsively without considering consequences, etc. Teach yourself impulse control and to “slow down” through the practice of awareness breathing meditation. As you get more practiced at this, you will see your impulsive tendencies gradually melt away.
- Burn off excess energy. Start exercising or take up a hobby to help you get in the habit of directing your energy toward filling your time with more productive pursuits and choices.
- Learn to ask for help when you need it. No one can possibly know how to do everything, and we all need help from time to time. You shouldn’t ever be afraid or ashamed of asking your clinician or someone in your support group for help. Maybe you need help minimizing invasive/irrational thoughts, or need some ideas to help you fill your time with more creative and productive habits. Just ask.
Are you concerned about living with ADHD as an adult? Not to worry. It is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.