Although the exact prevalence in adults is unknown, studies so far reveal that the condition, marked by inability to concentrate, having difficulty getting work done, procrastination, or organization problems, probably exists in about 2 to 4 percent of adults.
- School-Related Impairments Linked to adult ADHD
Adults with ADHD may have had:
- A history of poor educational performance, thus a strong likelihood of underachievement
- More frequent school disciplinary actions
- May have repeated a grade
- May have dropped out of school
- Work-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- Change employers frequently and perform at less than optimal levels
- Have had fewer occupational achievements, independent of psychiatric status
- Social-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- Have a lower socioeconomic status
- Have driving violations such as: speeding tickets, suspended license, car accidents, and/or a record of poor driving
- Use illegal substances more frequently
- Smoke cigarettes
- Self-report psychological maladjustment more often
- Relationship-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- Have more marital problems and multiple marriages
- Have higher incidence of separation and divorce
Remember that every individual is unique, and just because you may have been diagnosed with ADD does not mean you will automatically experience or exhibit these behaviors.
Symptoms Indicating Something Other than ADHD
Many symptoms and behaviors can present themselves as symptoms of ADHD. These include:
- Underachievement at college/work due to a learning disability (eg. dyslexia)
- Attention lapses caused by petit mal seizures, also known as absence seizures
- Concentration and learning difficulties due to a sleep disorder or breathing problems
- Disruptive or unresponsive behavior due to physical abuse
- Disruptive or unresponsive behavior due to a family member or partner's substance abuse or dependency on alcohol
- Attention-seeking behavior due to family or partner's lack of interest
- A sudden life change
- Substance abuse
- Medical disorders affecting brain function
- Incorrect level of schooling or incorrect placement at work
- Chronic fear due to a traumatic event
- Disruptive or unresponsive behavior due to anxiety or depression
Under no circumstances should ADD or ADHD be diagnosed in any individual whose primary diagnosis is an emotional disorder, such as anxiety or depression.
It's very important that individuals are thoroughly evaluated and an in-depth history is investigated before the conclusion of adult ADHD is reached.
Other causes of ADHD type symptoms are food intolerance, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), allergies, perceptual difficulties, nutritional problems, candida, hyperthyroidism, Tourette's syndrome, brain dysfunction, family and emotional problems, poor discipline, anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Each of these problems would require different treatment and may even be exacerbated by prescription medication for ADHD.
If other areas are determined to be a possible root cause of the behavior, the diagnosis of ADHD must be put on hold until these areas are fully explored. These include:
- Mental retardation
- Chronic illness being treated with a medication that may interfere with learning
- Trouble seeing and/or hearing
- History of abuse
- Major anxiety or major depression
- Severe aggression
- Possible seizure disorder
- Alcohol or drug abuse
You need to be proactive and take initiative to find the best possible treatment plan. Be positive. Here are a few tips.
- Tips for you as an ADHD Adult:
- Set aside a few minutes each night to schedule the following day's events
- Organize needed everyday items so you know where things are
- Use diaries and notebook organizers
- Don’t be too hard on yourself or set unrealistic goals
- Activities to Pursue:
While there is no single activity that guarantees teens with ADD/ADHD instant success, certain types of activities tend to reap more positive results.
- Look for activities with a singular focus, such as sports that center attention
- Consider activities that involve movement, providing an appropriate and controlled physical outlet
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Seek activities that offer individualized instruction
- Explore activities that result in tangible rewards
- Activities to Avoid:
- Involve a lot of down time
- Require too much divided attention
- Require fine motor skills
Special Advice for Managing Teens with ADHD
Tips for you as a parent to help your ADD teen:
- Maintain as much routine and consistency as possible
- Try to avoid major or frequent changes
- Ensure that family relationships are stable
- Be very consistent in your discipline and keep all rules the same
- Speak often to your teen's teachers
- Engage in activities that promote concentration and listening skills
- Use frequent eye contact when speaking to your teen or giving instructions
- Keep directions simple and set simple house rules
- Provide a structured outlet for hyperactivity
- Teach using as many of the senses as possible and make learning interactive
- Review your expectations for your teen
- Reward positive behavior immediately
- Anticipate situations
- Make sure your teen is supervised at all times
- Learn and understand the symptoms of ADD
- Schedule tasks and reminders
- Organize needed everyday items
- Use homework and notebook organizers
- Set a homework routine
- Focus on effort, not grades
- Make a special effort to highlight positives in your child
Try not to:
- Use physical punishment
- Put too many expectations on your teen
- Focus too much on the areas your teen is struggling with
No comprehensive discussion of attention deficit hyperactivity is possible without considering the benefits and disadvantages of prescription drugs - a subject fraught with controversy.
Ritalin and the other ADHD stimulant medications have sparked a great deal of controversy. Often seen as an easy 'quick fix' they are prescribed to treat symptoms but not the underlying cause of ADHD.
Often people feel that by researching alternatives to prescribed drugs, they are in some way neglecting their teen or loved one, and endangering their health. Ironically, side effects of these prescription drugs can seriously endanger a person's health.
In fact, investigating the possible side effects and long-term impact of prescription drugs is almost certainly viewed as an act of love. Educating yourself on each of the prescription drugs used to treat ADHD is a necessity if you want to provide the safest treatment for yourself or for those you love.
There are some difficulties in using stimulants to treat ADHD in adults. Stimulants are controlled substances, and it is not uncommon for adults (including teens) with ADHD to have or to have had problems with substance abuse.
Short-acting stimulants may wear off quickly, and since adult patients administer the medication themselves but usually have problems with forgetfulness, consistency can be problematic with multiple-day dosing.
Adults may experience significant difficulty in the evening when they do housework, pay bills, help children with homework, or drive. They may be tempted to use substances 'to relax', which can lead to addiction and drug-dependency. Teens may sell their medication to friends, or combine it with other substances.
ADHD represents a growing market for pharmaceutical companies. Although psycho-stimulants may be helpful for many families, no one should underestimate the influence of the economic issues involved.
It is also a worry to note that the long-term affects of prescription drugs for the treatment of ADHD have not been determined. For this reason, treatment of ADHD with prescription drugs or stimulant drugs should be regarded a last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.
Research into the long-term effects of Ritalin and other drugs prescribed for ADHD is still in its early stages. More research is needed.
Discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of using these medications or treating your teen with these medications.
It is strongly advised that the following criteria are fully investigated with regards to any stimulant drugs: common uses, cautions, possible side effects, overdose, additional information, and major drug interactions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are still investigating certain side effects of certain prescription ADHD drugs, and it is advisable that individuals do their own research into these medications so that they are fully aware of the potential risks.
Physicians still have a difficult time predicting which prescription medications will produce beneficial results, so treatment is individualized and performed on a trial and error basis. This 'hit or miss' technique requires close observation and cooperation between all participants, and is understandably not the best solution.
If an initial regimen doesn't work, doctors often change the dosage, switch to a different drug, or even add another medication. Some doctors even recommend trying a second psycho-stimulant if a first one does not work. If the individual still doesn't respond, antidepressants or other second-line drugs may be prescribed.
Before long, a person may be taking a cocktail of drugs to treat the side effects of the initial medication, thus creating a domino effect.
Remember, medications don't cure adult ADHD, they only control the symptoms on the day they are taken. Although the medications may help the individual pay better attention and complete work, they can't increase knowledge or improve academic skills.
The medications can only help the individual to use those skills he or she already possesses, which may just as easily be obtained through behavioral therapy and other proactive techniques, such as 'out of the box' creative methods.
It is vital that you educate yourself on all aspects of ADHD before making a decision regarding prescription drugs.
For people with ADHD, no single treatment is the answer for everyone. A person may have undesirable side effects to a medication, making a particular treatment unacceptable. Each person's needs and personal history must be carefully considered. It is important to work with a health care professional/psychologist to determine the safest treatment.
If all other options and avenues have been investigated and prescription drugs are chosen for treatment, frequent follow-up visits should be scheduled to assess the response and to detect possible side effects. Teens on medications should have regular checkups.
Stimulants are not a cure-all, and adults should be informed of healthy choices with regards to food, exercise, and healthy hobbies. The best chance of minimizing side effects is to use a remedy that is free of adverse or unwanted secondary effects completely.
- Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies - A number of adults have tried natural remedies as an alternative to psycho-stimulants and other drugs. Small trials have found some agents, such as oral flower essence, Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, and melatonin may possibly have benefits for ADHD. There are homeopathic remedies which effectively target some of the disruptive symptoms of ADHD and allow the child to concentrate more easily.
Natural remedies should be considered as a first step ahead of prescription psychiatric drugs. When combined with strong dietary control, counseling (as necessary), and a healthy lifestyle, natural remedies have been show to be effective in helping to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD.
- Dietary Approaches. A number of diets have been suggested for people with ADHD. Various studies have reported behavioral improvement with diets that restrict possible allergens in the diet. Parents may want to discuss with their health care professional, homeopath, or naturopath concerning implementing an elimination diet of certain foods or adding supplements that would not be harmful and that might help. This is a very individualized approach and would differ from child to child. Always consult a nutritional expert before restricting your diet.
- Feedback Approaches. A technique that uses auditory (sound) feedback may prove to be an effective tool for increasing attention.
- Neurofeedback. This technique uses electronic devices to help control brain wave activity.
- Interactive Metronome and Musical Therapy. Feedback from sound is used to improve attention, motor control, and certain academic skills.
- Massage and Relaxation Techniques. Massage therapy can help ADHD adults feel more relaxed, fidget less, be less hyperactive, and focus on tasks. Other methods include reflexology, relaxation training, meditation, and music therapy.