In the past everyone used to consider ADHD to be something that only affected children. Many professionals even believed that children who had been diagnosed with ADHD would later grow out of it. We now know that that is completely false, and ADHD is something that will be part of our entire life. ADHD can even present differently in adults versus children, and therefore can go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Here’s more info on what ADHD is and how it’s diagnosed.
ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It is categorized by the number of symptoms one has in both the inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity categories. So let’s talk about inattention first:
A person must have at least 6 of these following symptoms and these symptoms must have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts their social or occupational functioning.
1. Often fails to pay attention to detail and makes careless mistakes
2. Has difficulty holding attention in tasks or hobbies
3. Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly…
The second category is hyperactivity and impulsivity, and again they must show at least 6 (5 if they are 17 and older) of the following symptoms. They also note that these symptoms cannot be just because someone is being oppositional or hostile towards someone else.
1. Will often fidget with or taps hands or feet or squirms in their seat.
2. Will often leave their seat during times when remaining seated is expected.
3. Often runs out or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (in adults this may be limited to feeling restless).. Now let’s get into how it can be different in adults, and why many people are not getting properly diagnosed with ADHD until they are much older. First I think it’s important to know that all adults who are diagnosed with ADHD had it as a child, they just never got a proper diagnosis, and may have struggled in school without support as a result. Which, I have to be honest, is always upsetting for me to read about because children can grow up believing that they are stupid, lazy, or never going to fit in. If they understood what was going on they could have learned tools and techniques to better manage it.
Adults with ADHD may have trouble at work, change jobs frequently, and not feel very fulfilled with their work. They could also tend to smoke cigarettes, abuse alcohol with more frequency, and struggle with other mental health issues (most common are anxiety and depression). There are also reports that adults with ADHD get a lot of speeding tickets, aren’t good at saving money, and over salt their food. They also tend to struggle with relationships and due to their impulsiveness, often get married multiple times. Now obviously as I go through these traits know that everyone is going to be different, but these are some of the signs and symptoms that research over the years has shown.
There are many therapeutic techniques and tools you can use to help you better manage the symptoms. CBT has been the most researched and supported treatment, and here are some of the basic tools people find helpful 1. Setting small goals/tasks each and every day 2. Setting a timer so that you know how long you have to keep doing that thing, and then you get to do something else 3. Have a reward system for yourself where you get something you want (ie. watching that amazing youtube video you saw in your feed) as soon as you complete one task. 4. Establish a routine that you can follow most days 5. Come up with distraction tools and techniques that you can do (ie. doodling while in meetings to keep you focused). 6. Be kind to yourself. Behavioral changes take time and practice, and some days you may just be too tired to do it all. Just keep trying and know that it will get better and easier.
I’m Kati Morton, a licensed therapist making Mental Health videos!
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