Adult ADHD

Mental health and wellbeing is a burgeoning area of discussion amongst today’s youth. With these discussions come multiple questions and so arose this series of Ask The Therapist. This will be an ongoing series of questions on varying themes answered by expert psychologists. It is an opportunity to better understand yourself and equip yourself with knowledge and information about multi-faceted topics in the mental health arena. 

Let’s address some commonly asked questions on adult ADHD:

  1. Is there a cure for Adult ADHD? Can ADHD be treated in adults?

While ADHD doesn’t have a cure, effective treatment and management strategies can significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals with ADHD. Treatment options for adults with ADHD may encompass medication, psychotherapy, and practical strategies aimed at enhancing daily functioning. With proper support and interventions, individuals with ADHD can lead fulfilling lives. 

  1. How is Adult ADHD diagnosed? 

Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive assessment by a mental healthcare professional, including a review of symptoms, medical history, and sometimes psychological testing.

  1. What causes ADHD in adults?

Similar factors cause ADHD in individuals across all ages:

ADHD in adults can be influenced by several factors. Genetics play a big role, so having a family history of ADHD increases the risk. Differences in brain structure and function, especially in areas controlling attention and impulse control, contribute to the disorder. Environmental stressors and Prenatal factors, like being born prematurely, having a low birth weight, or exposure to tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy, can also play a part. Additionally, problems with brain development and imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, are linked to ADHD.

  1. Can ADHD be managed without medication?

Yes, while medication is often part of the treatment plan, behavioral interventions, therapy, and lifestyle changes can also be effective in managing ADHD symptoms.

  1. Can ADHD develop in adulthood, even if I didn’t experience symptoms as a child?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it starts in childhood, but it’s possible for some individuals to only become aware of their symptoms in adulthood. While many are diagnosed as children, some may not display noticeable symptoms until later in life due to various factors such as changes in brain chemistry, increased demands and stressors, or greater awareness and understanding of ADHD symptoms. In some cases, individuals may have managed their symptoms effectively during childhood, but the challenges of adulthood, such as managing responsibilities, relationships, and career demands, can make ADHD traits more prominent.

  1. How do you distinguish between ADHD, Generalized Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depression? What are some shared features between ADHD and these disorders?

1Major Depressive DisorderEnduring dysphoric mood or anhedonia, sleep and appetite disturbancesPoor concentration, attention and memory, difficulty completing tasks
2Generalized Anxiety DisorderExaggerated apprehension and worrying, somatic symptoms of anxiety (eg, syncope, insomnia)Fidgetiness, difficulty concentrating
3Borderline Personality DisorderRepeated self-injuries or suicidal behavior, failure to recognize the effects of their behavior of self and othersImpulsivity, affective lability, interpersonal difficulties
4Bipolar DisorderEnduring dysphoric (low) and euphoric (high) mood, insomnia, delusionsHyperactivity, difficulty maintaining attention and focus, mood swings
  1. I have ADHD, how can I improve my organization and time management skills?

Use a Planner or Digital Calendar: Keep a planner or use digital calendar apps to schedule tasks, appointments, and deadlines. Set reminders and alarms to prompt you about upcoming events or tasks.

Break Down Tasks: Divide larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This can make it easier to focus and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Create a Routine: Establish a daily routine to provide structure and consistency. This can help you stay on track with tasks and deadlines. You can also include specific time blocks for work, breaks, meals, and other activities.

Use Visual Reminders: Utilize visual cues like sticky notes, color-coded labels, or visual charts to remind you of important tasks or deadlines. Even more helpful could be placing these reminders in prominent locations where you’ll see them regularly.

Set Realistic Goals: Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a given timeframe and avoid overcommitting.

Time Blocking: Allocate specific blocks of time to different tasks or categories of tasks.This helps minimize distractions and keeps you focused on one thing at a time.

Eliminate Distractions: Identify and minimize potential distractions in your environment. There are various tools and apps that block distracting websites or apps during work periods.

  1. What are the common misconceptions about adult ADHD that I should be aware of?

Myth: ADHD is only a childhood disorder

Fact: Many people mistakenly believe that ADHD only affects children. However, it often persists into adulthood, and many individuals may be diagnosed for the first time in adulthood.

Myth: ADHD is just an excuse for laziness or lack of discipline

Fact: People with ADHD often struggle with executive functions, such as organization and time management, but it’s not a lack of effort or willpower.

Myth: ADHD only affects hyperactive individuals

Fact: While hyperactivity is a common symptom in children with ADHD, not all individuals with ADHD are hyperactive. In adults, the hyperactivity component may manifest as inner restlessness or difficulty staying seated.

Myth: Everyone has a little ADHD sometimes

Fact: It’s normal for people to experience occasional forgetfulness or distractibility, but ADHD is a chronic condition that significantly impacts daily functioning. The symptoms of ADHD are more severe, persistent, and pervasive.

Myth: ADHD medications are a “quick fix” or a form of substance abuse

Fact: Medications for ADHD, such as stimulants or non-stimulants, are prescribed based on careful evaluation by healthcare professionals. When taken as prescribed, these medications can be effective in managing symptoms without leading to addiction or substance abuse.

Myth: ADHD only affects academic performance

Fact: ADHD can impact various aspects of life, including relationships, employment, and overall well-being. It goes beyond academic challenges and can affect daily functioning in multiple areas.

Myth: ADHD is not a real medical condition

Fact: ADHD is a well-established and recognized neurodevelopmental disorder with a biological basis. Research shows differences in brain structure and function in individuals with ADHD compared to those without the condition.

Myth: ADHD is just an “excuse for bad behavior”

Fact: Behavior challenges in individuals with ADHD are often related to difficulties with impulse control and executive functions, not a deliberate choice to behave poorly. Understanding is crucial for managing these challenges.

Myth: People with ADHD can’t focus at all

Fact: While distractibility is a common symptom, individuals with ADHD can also hyperfocus on activities they find interesting. The challenge often lies in maintaining focus on less stimulating tasks.

Myth: ADHD is not a serious condition

Fact: ADHD can have a significant impact on a person’s life, affecting relationships, education, and employment. It’s important to recognize the challenges individuals with ADHD face and provide appropriate support and understanding.