Mar

24

2013

Adult ADHD: Are You Part of the 5%

Heather Auton, Psy.D.

Do you find that you have difficulty staying focused on daily tasks, notice that you have trouble remembering multi-step directions, spend a great deal of time organizing but can’t stay organized or believe that you have mastered the art of procrastination?  Most of us struggle with one or two of these areas on an occasional basis and all of these concerns can be part of everyday life, especially in the fast paced world in which we live.  If, however, you find that you experience one or several of these symptoms every day, you may be part of the 5% of adults that have Adult ADHD.

Less is known about Adult ADHD in comparison to the childhood version.  Most literature suggest that there is a prevalence of 4 to 5% and indicates that the discrepancy that is seen in childhood, with more males vs. females having the disorder, does not maintain with adults. The exact cause of ADHD is not known but, based on information gathered by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Health Genome Research Institute, there appears to be a strong genetic component.   Numerous studies also show a variance in brain structure in individuals with ADHD, especially in frontal structures, as well as differences in neuronal firing patterns. Unless there is an external cause (a head injury, stroke, chemical exposure, decline in mental health, a major life stressor, etc.), it is generally believed that the symptoms of ADHD in adulthood are a continuation of a condition that would have been present in childhood (but may not have been diagnosed).  The presentation and impact of ADHD with adults can vary significantly from the stereotypical pattern seen in childhood and requires appropriate intervention. If Adult ADHD is not managed appropriately, behavioral, emotional, social and vocational issues can manifest including:

  • difficulty maintaining employment
  • poor or inconsistent performance at work
  • relationship problems
  • financial difficulties
  • feelings of chronic boredom
  • periods of depression
  • difficulty controlling anger
  • impulsive decision making
  • low frustration tolerance
  • low self-esteem
  • mood swings
  • poor ability to establish and maintain organization  

Management of Adult ADHD is often a multifaceted process; beginning with correct diagnosis and followed by behavioral, cognitive, and perhaps medication based interventions. In blogs to follow, I will address the benefits of Neuropsychological Evaluation in diagnosis in contrast to checklists and will further discuss new promising treatment options.

References: 
The ADHD Genetic Research Study at the National Institutes of Health and The National Human Genome Research Institute   http://www.genome.gov/10004300#al-2
National Institute of Mental Health, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml
 Wilens TE, Biederman J, Spencer TJ. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan. Annual Review of Medicine, 2002; 53:113-131.

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