Assessing ADHD in Adult Patients

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The term ADHD, for many people, conjures the image of a grade-school aged child who may be loud, who can’t stay in their seat, who can’t be still, who runs too fast, talks too loud and generally acts like they are being run by a high speed motor with no off switch. However, ADHD is a genetic, physiological condition caused by differences in brain growth and function. If a person has ADHD, they have it. It is not a condition that is outgrown. In fact, studies show that approximately 4.4% of the population has this condition and only 1 in 10 people have gotten any professional treatment. What that may mean is that there are somewhere around 8 million adults with undiagnosed ADHD.

ADHD is primarily a condition that creates problems with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, as well as emotional disregulation.

A child with ADHD may show an inability to give sustained attention to any task, be distracted very easily by extraneous stimuli, may leave their seat when they should not, may tap their hands or feet or squirm constantly, may speak out of turn, blurt out answers or talk excessively. These children may have trouble controlling their emotions and may cry, get angry or throw fits much more often than other children. They may be constantly forgetful, forgetting daily tasks, homework assignments or text books, or tools needed for school work.

These symptoms of ADHD do not disappear, they simply look different in the life and behavior of an adult. Adults with ADHD may show symptoms such as anxiety, chronic boredom, chronic lateness and forgetfulness, trouble controlling anger, poor organizational skills, procrastination and mood swings. They may not pay attention in conversations and randomly change the subject when talking. They may not pay attention to daily tasks, and have a tendency to forget to do household chores and to pay monthly bills. At work they may have trouble staying organized and completing projects and assignments. They may have a tendency to speed. They are more likely to be impulsive when making purchases. Because they struggle to regulate their emotions they may have difficulty in their relationships in work, in their social life, and in their marriage. In fact, twice as many adults with ADHD are divorced, twice as many are fired from their jobs, and they have two to three times as many accidents than other adults without ADHD.

There is hope. These adults many not have been diagnosed when they were children but they can be diagnosed and helped as an adult. Although there is no single medical, physical, or genetic test for ADHD, a diagnostic evaluation can be provided by a qualified mental health care professional or physician who gathers information from multiple sources. Some practitioners will also conduct tests of cognitive ability and academic achievement in order to find if there are other conditions that may have co-morbidity with ADHD. ADHD cannot be diagnosed accurately just from brief office observations or  simply by talking to the person. The person may not always exhibit the symptoms of ADHD during the office visit, and the diagnostician needs to take a thorough history of the individual’s life. By contacting a family physician, a process can begin that will lead to help and support.

If you have further questions about ADHD in adults, schedule a consultation with Dr. Thompson at the Infinity Hope Center today!