Diagnosing ADHD in Adults: Recognizing Adult ADHD Symptoms and Evaluating Options for Treatment

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Tess Thompson



Although it is commonly believed to be a condition that primarily affects children, it is estimated that 12 to 15 million American adults also suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But because child ADHD treatment and symptoms can differ slightly from adult ADHD and treatment, and because research into adult ADHD is still in its early stages, many adults do not know how to evaluate whether they are suffering from the disorder.

There is no single test that will identify ADHD, and there are no specific genetic or biological indicators that will lead to a diagnosis. Instead, it is necessary to consult a doctor who will conduct a comprehensive evaluation which will include extensive examination of past behavior, and should also include a physical exam to rule out any other possible source of the symptoms.

ADHD symptoms differ from person to person, but according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is often used in ADHD research studies, they can include:

-Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
-Often losing things necessary for tasks or activities
-Often easily distracted by outside stimuli
-Not listening when spoken to directly
-Difficulty awaiting turn
-Difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly

All of the symptoms listed by the APA (and these are just a few) are meant to describe those found in children, but they can be used as a general guideline for adults as well. However, adult symptoms can manifest themselves in more subtle ways, and the hyperactivity seen in children is often less evident in adults. Instead, adults may be restless, on edge, and have trouble relaxing.

Diagnosing ADHD in adults is made more complex by the variety of conditions which can share similar symptoms. These conditions include drug or alcohol dependency, depression and thyroid dysfunction.

Although recognizing adult ADHD symptoms can be difficult, once diagnosed, adults have many options for treatment. Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, which are often prescribed for children, have not been approved by the FDA for treatment of adults. They may still be effective, but can potentially produce unwanted side effects. Certain homeopathic remedies have also been found to be extremely effective in some patients. Homeopathic ingredients such as Avina Sativa (Green Oats) and Gingo Biloba are among those which can help alleviate symptoms.

Many studies agree that medication should be just one facet of treatment. Behavioral and psychological treatment, or what is called a “multimodal” approach, should be considered as well. Armed with good information and a certain amount of patience, you should be able to obtain an accurate diagnosis and explore effective treatments for your condition.

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