Adult Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Treatment, Diagnosis, and Causes
Some people equate the symptoms and results of ADHD to a personal failing instead of a disorder. However, when properly diagnosed, people who are successfully treated for ADHD are better able to manage their symptoms at work and school and report an improved quality of life, improved interpersonal relationships, and more fulfillment and satisfaction with their careers.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is an increasingly common neurodevelopmental condition. It affects thought and emotional processing and responses to the environment. While usually diagnosed in children, many adults grow up with undiagnosed ADHD.
Studies show that about 4% of the general adult population has ADHD. As of 2018, that amounted to roughly 25.3 million adults 18 and over in the United States. However, fewer than 2.5 million receive a diagnosis.
The 90% of adults unaware of their ADHD often experience various functional impairments without knowing why. On top of that, only a third of diagnosed adults receive ADHD treatment.
There are three types of ADHD:
- Predominantly inattentive
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
- Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive
The most common cause of ADHD is genetics. This disorder frequently runs in families, sometimes skipping generations. Other causes may include traumatic brain injury, premature birth, or exposure to high amounts of toxins, like lead.
There is no evidence that too much sugar, food additives, allergies, or vaccinations cause this disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
The hallmarks of ADHD are a lack of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. Not every person with ADHD will manifest the same symptoms, but many exhibit similar ones.
- Difficulty focusing
- Trouble staying organized
- Overlooking or missing details
- Not seeming to listen when spoken to directly
- Trouble following or completing instructions
- Avoiding tasks requiring sustained effort
- Easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forgetfulness or constantly misplacing or losing important items
Hyperactivity or impulsivity includes:
- Fidgeting and squirming
- A need to constantly be in motion
- Excessive talking
- Impatience during a conversation
- Interrupting or intruding on others
- Impuslivity including thrill seeking or instant gratification behaviors
These symptoms do not constitute an act of defiance, lack of effort, low intelligence, or a lack of understanding. A person with ADHD encounters setbacks regardless of their genuine intent to commit to an action or goal.
A person with ADHD often finds themselves unable to keep a job or appointments, seems constantly disorganized, has trouble with time management and prioritization, and may have a history of problems at work. These issues tend to persist regardless of their best efforts.
How Is ADHD Treated?
Treatment options often combine medication, behavioral therapy, and a support group. Therapy and support can help reinforce positive behaviors while the medicine helps manage the symptoms. The most effective treatments usually combine all three.
Medications can be stimulant or non-stimulant. Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants often increase the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which help a person think and pay attention. These include medicaitons such Adderall, Vyvanse, Dexedrine, Ritalin and Concerta.
Non-stimulant medicines are slower to take effect in a person’s body but have fewer potential side effects. They typically increase norepinephrine as well as dopamine through a different mechanism of action, though some medication helps with ADHD without scientists fully understanding why or how. Non-stimulant medications typically prescribed include Strattera and Wellbutrin.
The most common side effects of stimulant medications are appetite supresison, headaches and nervousness. Other, more detrimental side effects may include increased blood pressure, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts or actions. Always speak with your physician if you feel your medication causes side effects.
Please fill out our online new patient intake form to schedule an evaluation and receive ADHD treatment if needed. Crescent City Psychiatric staff members review each submission and will help you schedule a new patient appointment. You can also call us at (985) 249-1322.