health

All posts tagged health

Understanding Adult ADHD

Published June 20, 2013 by Tabby

Hello all. This post is just a basic overview of adult ADHD. It is sparked by my recent unfriending of a person who went on a rant stating that there is no such thing as ADHD and that it’s ruining people. While I agree that it is overdiagnosed that does not mean it does not exist at all.

“Adult ADD / ADHD Signs, Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment”

Adult ADD / ADHD Symptoms

Life can be a balancing act for any adult, but if you find yourself constantly late, disorganized, forgetful, and overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you may have ADD/ADHD. Attention deficit disorder affects many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms can hinder everything from your relationships to your career. But help is available—and learning about ADD/ADHD is the first step. Once you understand the challenges, you can learn to compensate for areas of weakness and start taking advantage of your strengths.

Understanding ADD / ADHD in adults

Attention deficit disorder is not just a problem in children. If you were diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD, chances are, you’ve carried at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. But even if you were never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult.

ADD / ADHD: It’s not just for kids

ADD / ADHD: It’s not just for kidsAttention deficit disorder often goes unrecognized throughout childhood. This was especially common in the past, when very few people were aware of ADD/ADHD. Instead of recognizing your symptoms and identifying the real issue, your family, teachers, or other parents may have labeled you a dreamer, a goof-off, a slacker, a troublemaker, or just a bad student.

Alternately, you may have been able to compensate for the symptoms of ADD/ADHD when you were young, only to run into problems as your responsibilities increase. The more balls you’re trying to keep in the air—pursuing a career, raising a family, running a household—the greater the demand on your abilities to organize, focus, and remain calm. This can be challenging for anyone, but if you have ADD/ADHD, it can feel downright impossible.

The good news is that, no matter how it feels, the challenges of attention deficit disorder are beatable. With education, support, and a little creativity, you can learn to manage the symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD—even turning some of your weaknesses into strengths. It’s never too late to turn the difficulties of adult ADD/ADHD around and start succeeding on your own terms.

Myths and Facts about ADD / ADHD in Adults

MYTH: ADD/ADHD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADD/ADHD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.

FACT: ADD/ADHD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.

FACT: ADD/ADHD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADD/ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD/ADHD diagnosis.

MYTH: Someone can’t have ADD/ADHD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.

FACT: A person with ADD/ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADD/ADHD usually overlaps with other disorders.

MYTH: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.

FACT: Many adults struggle all their lives with unrecognized ADD/ADHD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to usual treatment.

Source: Dr. Thomas E. Brown, Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults

Signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD

In adults, attention deficit disorder often looks quite different than it does in children—and its symptoms are unique for each individual. The following categories highlight common symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD. Do your best to identify the areas where you experience difficulty. Once you pinpoint your most problematic symptoms, you can start to work on strategies for dealing with them.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Trouble concentrating and staying focused

Adults with ADD/ADHD often have difficulty staying focused and attending to daily, mundane tasks. For example, you may be easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bounce from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADD/ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity—but they can be every bit as troublesome. The symptoms of inattention and concentration difficulties include:

  • “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.
  • extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track.
  • difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others.
  • struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple.
  • tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.
  • poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Hyperfocus

While you’re probably aware that people with ADD/ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that aren’t interesting to them, you may not know that there’s another side: a tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for distraction—a way of tuning out the chaos. It can be so strong that you become oblivious to everything going on around you. For example, you may be so engrossed in a book, a TV show, or your computer that you completely lose track of time and neglect the things you’re supposed to be doing. Hyperfocus can be an asset when channeled into productive activities, but it can also lead to work and relationship problems if left unchecked.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Disorganization and forgetfulness

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Disorganization and forgetfulnessWhen you have adult ADD/ADHD, life often seems chaotic and out of control. Staying organized and on top of things can be extremely challenging—as is sorting out what information is relevant for the task at hand, prioritizing the things you need to do, keeping track of tasks and responsibilities, and managing your time. Common symptoms of disorganization and forgetfulness include:

  • poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
  • tendency to procrastinate
  • trouble starting and finishing projects
  • chronic lateness
  • frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
  • constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
  • underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Impulsivity

If you suffer from symptoms in this category, you may have trouble inhibiting your behaviors, comments, and responses. You might act before thinking, or react without considering consequences. You may find yourself interrupting others, blurting out comments, and rushing through tasks without reading instructions. If you have impulse problems, being patient is extremely difficult. For better or for worse, you may go headlong into situations and find yourself in potentially risky circumstances. You may struggle with controlling impulses if you:

  • frequently interrupt others or talk over them
  • have poor self-control
  • blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
  • have addictive tendencies
  • act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
  • have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long meeting)

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Emotional difficulties

Many adults with ADD/ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotions like anger or frustration. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD include:

  • sense of underachievement
  • doesn’t deal well with frustration
  • easily flustered and stressed out
  • irritability or mood swings
  • trouble staying motivated
  • hypersensitivity to criticism
  • short, often explosive, temper
  • low self-esteem and sense of insecurity

mon adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Hyperactivity or restlessness

Hyperactivity in adults with ADD/ADHD can look the same as it does in kids. You may be highly energetic and perpetually “on the go” as if driven by a motor. For many people with ADD/ADHD, however, the symptoms of hyperactivity become more subtle and internal as they grow older. Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults include:

  • feelings of inner restlessness, agitation
  • tendency to take risks
  • getting bored easily
  • racing thoughts
  • trouble sitting still; constant fidgeting
  • craving for excitement
  • talking excessively
  • doing a million things at once

You don’t have to be hyperactive to have ADD / ADHD

Adults with ADD/ADHD are much less likely to be hyperactive than their younger counterparts. Only a small slice of adults with ADD/ADHD, in fact, suffer from prominent symptoms of hyperactivity. Remember that names can be deceiving and you may very well have ADD/ADHD if you have one or more of the symptoms above—even if you lack hyperactivity.

Effects of adult ADD / ADHD

If you are just discovering you have adult ADD/ADHD, chances are you’ve suffered over the years for the unrecognized problem. People may have labeled you “lazy” or “stupid” because of your forgetfulness or difficulty completing tasks, and you may have begun to think of yourself in these negative terms as well.

Untreated ADD/ADHD has wide-reaching effects

ADD/ADHD that is undiagnosed and untreated can cause problems in virtually every area of your life.

  • Physical and mental health problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can contribute to a variety of health problems, including compulsive eating, substance abuse, anxiety, chronic stress and tension, and low self-esteem. You may also run into trouble due to neglecting important check-ups, skipping doctor appointments, ignoring medical instructions, and forgetting to take vital medications.
  • Work and financial difficulties. Adults with ADD/ADHD often experience career difficulties and feel a strong sense of underachievement. You may have trouble keeping a job, following corporate rules, meeting deadlines, and sticking to a 9-to-5 routine. Managing finances may also be a problem: you may struggle with unpaid bills, lost paperwork, late fees, or debt due to impulsive spending.
  • Relationship problems.Relationship problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can put a strain on your work, love, and family relationships. You may be fed up with constant nagging from loved ones to tidy up, listen more closely, or get organized. Those close to you, on the other hand, may feel hurt and resentful over your perceived “irresponsibility” or “insensitivity.”

The wide-reaching effects of ADD/ADHD can lead to embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness, disappointment, and loss of confidence. You may feel like you’ll never be able to get your life under control. That’s why a diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD can be an enormous source of relief and hope. It helps you understand what you’re up against for the first time and realize that you’re not to blame. The difficulties you’ve had are symptoms of attention deficit disorder—not the result of personal weakness or a character flaw.

Adult ADD/ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back

When you have ADD/ADHD, it’s easy to end up thinking that there’s something wrong with you. But it’s okay to be different. ADD/ADHD isn’t an indicator of intelligence or capability. Certain things may be more difficult for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your niche and achieve success. The key is to find out what your strengths are and capitalize on them.

It can be helpful to think about attention deficit disorder as a collection of traits that are both positive and negative—just like any other set of qualities you might possess. Along with the impulsivity and disorganization of ADD/ADHD, for example, often come incredible creativity, passion, energy, out-of-the-box thinking, and a constant flow of original ideas. Figure out what you’re good at and set up your environment to support those strengths.

Self-help for adult ADD / ADHD

Armed with an understanding of ADD/ADHD’s challenges and the help of structured strategies, you can make real changes in your life. Many adults with attention deficit disorder have found meaningful ways to manage their symptoms, take advantage of their gifts, and lead productive and satisfying lives. You don’t necessarily need outside intervention—at least not right away. There is a lot you can do to help yourself and get your symptoms under control.

  • Exercise and eat right. Exercise vigorously and regularly—it helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Eat a wide variety of healthy foods and limit sugary foods in order to even out mood swings.
  • Get plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, it’s even more difficult to focus, manage stress, stay productive, and keep on top of your responsibilities. Support yourself by getting between 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Practice better time management. Set deadlines for everything, even for seemingly small tasks. Use timers and alarms to stay on track. Take breaks at regular intervals. Avoid piles of paperwork or procrastination by dealing with each item as it comes in. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down every assignment, message, or important thought.
  • Work on your relationships. Schedule activities with friends and keep your engagements. Be vigilant in conversation: listen when others are speaking and try not to speak too quickly yourself. Cultivate relationships with people who are sympathetic and understanding of your struggles with ADD/ADHD.
  • Create a supportive work environment. Make frequent use of lists, color-coding, reminders, notes-to-self, rituals, and files. If possible, choose work that motivates and interests you. Notice how and when you work best and apply these conditions to your working environment as best you can. It can help to team up with less creative, more organized people—a partnership that can be mutually beneficial.

When to seek outside help for adult ADD / ADHD

If the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are still getting in the way of your life, despite self-help efforts to manage them, it may be time to seek outside support. Adults with ADD/ADHD can benefit from a number of treatments, including behavioral coaching, individual therapy, self-help groups, vocational counseling, educational assistance, and medication.

Treatment for adults with attention deficit disorder, like treatment for kids, should involve a team of professionals, along with the person’s family members and spouse.

Professionals trained in ADD/ADHD can help you:

  • control impulsive behaviors
  • manage your time and money
  • get and stay organized
  • boost productivity at home and work
Advertisements

Common Myths about Adult ADHD

Published January 30, 2013 by Tabby

Image

I have noticed several articles lately that have painted those with ADHD in a poor light and furthered false stereotypes. Contrary to these articles, all of us are not running around stealing everything we can get our hands on and spending the majority of our lives unemployed or in prison. Also, the disorder affects people differently. There are two types of adult ADHD: hyperactive where the person is more physically impulsive and inattentive: where we just can’t pay attention and the disorder is more about internalized chaos.

 In this post I simply hope to raise awareness, foster understanding, and counter the recent articles that imply we are all hopeless and will always be a menace to society. The following myths are ones I’ve encountered, heard in conversations, and read in articles. I have cited the sources and recent myth-busting articles after the text.

 Myths

 -ADHD is not a real disorder

I’d really like to smack someone every time someone says this-I hear it often in my presence as I don’t have a neon blinking light on my forehead that I suffer from it. Several medical studies consider it a biological disorder, meaning that it’s connected to genes often passed through offspring. Recent studies have shown that kids with ADHD have genes that their more attentive counterparts don’t have (see Note 1). ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Society recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the official mental health “bible” used by psychologists and psychiatrists. You could read these articles, or you could just observe me or anyone else suffering try to work a desk job without any medication.

 -ADHD only occurs in children    

ADHD does not magically disappear once you turn eighteen. Several American health insurance companies seem to think so in their coverage of treatment for children and cutoff of treatment once that person has turned eighteen. The symptoms do appear differently in adulthood, such as less hyperactivity and more inattention. In a way, ADHD can be more debilitation for adults because children are expected to have shorter attention spans and be hyper while adults are expected to deal calmly with all the still, boring, and minute details of life. For adults, sitting down to do bills (as an example) is fine for a short amount of time but once that person has reached their limit they get an insatiable mental itch to get up, do something else, be more active. Or perhaps that person has already been distracted by absolutely anything and has now forgotten what they originally sat down to do.

 -All adults with ADHD are hyperactive and bouncing off the walls

I personally do not always have the urge to randomly start running a marathon (although sometimes I do). I once described it to my boyfriend: I drew up a picture from several cartoons that show miniature versions of that person inside their brain running its operation-I said that sometimes having ADHD is like having all those little people running around with their heads on fire. While hyperactivity is and can be part of it, the less visible and more common component is inattentive. In the inattentive type, the person is more likely to struggle with distractions, forgetfulness, poor time management, disorganization, etc. For example, we are notorious for losing our car keys, even if we just had our hands on them and/or they are in our pockets.

spongebob-brain-fire

 -People on stimulant medications are addicts

Ok, first of all I want to say that yes some medications are overprescribed. However, this does not mean that absolutely every single person taking them does not need them and only does so under the advice of drug-happy doctors or because of an addiction. This medication does help people that need it. As someone who needs the medication, I greatly envy those who can make it through a day without it. For myself and many others, getting through a single day is a panic-inducing struggle without help. It is true that if quitting a medication, such as Adderall, the person must step down slowly so not to experience withdrawals, but that is more from chemical issues rather than personal ones. Some do get addicted to these medications, but those are more often illegal users and not what this article is focused on.

 -People with ADHD are drug or alcohol abusers

I have read/heard a couple of times that people with ADHD are more likely to be addicts because they take medication. Actually people who are not medicated or do not receive help with the disorder are the ones more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs (see Note 2).

 -“Everyone” has ADHD these days

Yes technology and our fast-paced lives have decreased our society’s attention span but that does not mean that absolutely every single person has ADHD. Those with the actual disorder have it much worse than being distracted by Facebook or a text message and suffer in their everyday lives. Everyone has problems focusing at some point or other but those with the disorder have it every day. For example, if you’ve ever been sad for a short amount of time that does not mean that you have clinical depression.

 -People with ADHD don’t want to focus and are lazy and/or stupid

I would loooove to be able to sit still, not take medication, not forget things, etc. It’s not that we don’t want to focus, it’s that we can’t. We simply do not have the ability. Some people have said that those with ADHD just need to try harder: would you tell someone with poor eyesight to just see better?

People with ADHD are of above-average intelligence, recent studies show. They certainly aren’t lazy. In fact, many well-known, high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had ADHD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes top executives, such as David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. People with ADHD tend to be higher in intelligence than a lot of the average public. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. It is a disorder of regulating attention, and affects how well you can sit there and get stuff done.

 -ADHD isn’t a big deal

People with ADHD struggle in all areas in their lives: professionally, personally, and everything in between. ADHD is also very tough on relationships because of inattention during communication, irritability from having to sit still, frustration with conditions, miscommunication, and/or a lack of experience with or understanding of the disorder.

I’m sure I’m missing some myths-feel free to include them in the comments. Have you had a hard time dispelling these myths? Have you never heard of these?

 Notes and Further Reading

1. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2009 identifying specific ADHD genes: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v14/n5/abs/4002139a.html.

2. A study on substance abuse amongst those with ADHD: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18316421.

3. Margarita Tartakovsy, “Nine Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes about ADHD,” Psych Central, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/24/9-myths-misconceptions-and-stereotypes-about-adhd/ (accessed January 30, 2013).

4. “Seven Myths about ADHD Debunked!” ADDitude, http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/873.html (accessed January 30, 2013).

%d bloggers like this: