Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that has been typically associated with children. However, with concluding evidence, the medical community agrees that adults can also have this disorder.
The prevalence of adult ADHD in the US is 4.4%, and approximately 6.8 percent of people have ADHD symptoms worldwide, irrespective of their onset age.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms of this condition, common misconceptions, and treatment options.
One of the root causes of ADHD is an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemical messengers play a crucial role in sustaining alertness, enhancing focus, and maintaining thought, effort, and motivation.
Because of this imbalance, adults with ADHD often struggle to maintain focus and experience hyperactive behavior. Other factors that can also contribute to ADHD include abnormalities in the brain structure, genetics, and environmental factors.
The symptoms of ADHD include a lack of focus, poor prioritization, restlessness, and others, and may vary in different people. Depending on that, mental health professionals can diagnose predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, or combined ADHD.
Any type of this disorder can negatively affect day-to-day functioning.
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
Common ADHD symptoms in adults include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Poor organizational skills
- Inability to prioritize tasks
- Mood swings
- Impulsive decision making
- Inability to deal with stress
These and other symptoms often cause difficulty completing tasks, forgetfulness, and poor time management. As a result, adults with ADHD may encounter challenges in their careers, relationships, and overall life satisfaction.
Late Diagnosis: Why ADHD Often Goes Unnoticed in Adulthood?
There is a common misconception that only children can have ADHD. Due to this, less than 20% of adults with ADHD may receive an appropriate diagnosis. So, even though current evidence shows that ADHD can persist into adulthood, its symptoms can be left untreated.
Diagnosing ADHD in children and adults is based on several criteria mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Children require six or more symptoms lasting over six months while adults need five or more symptoms impacting daily life for at least six months. In addition, some of the symptoms must have been noticed in childhood to make a diagnosis of adult ADHD.
Since the symptoms of ADHD may manifest differently in children and adults or fade and transform with time, mental health professionals have to rule out other conditions during an assessment.
For example, some symptoms of anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and various cognitive disabilities may be mistaken for ADHD.
A detailed examination and proper diagnosis made in an adult ADHD treatment center can help make the treatment process more effective and reduce personal struggle and self-blame.
The Prevalence of Adult ADHD
According to various ADHD statistics, the following prevalence rates have been discovered:
- In a 10-year study of 110 boys with ADHD aged 6-17, 78% showed ongoing ADHD symptoms as they entered young adulthood.
- Based on recent longitudinal studies, ADHD persists into adolescence in 50%-80% of cases and into adulthood in 35%-65% of cases.
- According to a global systematic review in 2021, about 2.6% of adults worldwide have persistent ADHD from childhood. Global adult ADHD rates drop with age: 18-24-year-olds account for over 75.5 million cases, while those over 60 contribute 46.4 million.
How ADHD Can Impact Daily Life
ADHD can have wide-ranging consequences on work performance, academic pursuits, interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being.
Many adults with ADHD often grapple with difficulties related to time management, organization, and fulfilling commitments. All this can hinder their success and satisfaction in different areas of life.
Treatment and Management of ADHD Symptoms
Healthcare professionals create personalized treatment plans to help manage ADHD, taking into account the severity of symptoms and other factors. Treatment options for adults include medications, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments:
- Medications: There are two main classes of medications used to manage ADHD symptoms: stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants increase dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels in the brain, with common examples like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine (Adderall). Non-stimulants, such as atomoxetine (Strattera) and clonidine (Kapvay), increase norepinephrine levels. Medications help to improve focus, attention, and impulse control
- Therapy: Various forms of psychotherapy help adults with ADHD manage their symptoms in the long run. One of the most commonly used types is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which assists in addressing unhelpful behavioral and thinking patterns and provides coping strategies.
- Lifestyle adjustments: Incorporating stress-relief techniques like meditation and listening to music into daily routines can be helpful for people with ADHD. Other common recommendations include establishing healthy daily routines, adopting healthy bedtime habits, limiting caffeine intake, prioritizing good sleep, and maintaining a balanced, healthy diet.
ADHD in adults is more common than you might think, and recognizing its presence is the first step toward effective management. By understanding the symptoms, their impact on daily life, and available treatment options, adults with ADHD can lead fulfilling lives and unlock their true potential.
If you suspect you or someone you know has adult ADHD, seeking professional evaluation and support is essential.