Adult ADHD is a condition that affects many people, can impact various aspects of a person’s life, and at times can be debilitating. There are still however, some misconceptions about what ADHD is, who it affects, and what individuals can do to get support.
Apoorva Madan, Clinical Psychologist at PsychMed
Here are a few answers to common questions and misconceptions:
ADHD doesn’t exist in adults.
It’s common to hear about ADHD in relation to children, however it can also be diagnosed in adults. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder which presents in early childhood (below age 12) however, can extend across the lifespan. In fact, ADHD is seen in 3-5% of the adult population, and an estimated one in four people living with ADHD go undiagnosed.
Is ADHD just an issue with focusing?
ADHD includes many possible symptoms affecting someone’s attention and development, not just focusing (though this is certainly a part of it!). Some symptoms of ADHD related to inattention include difficulties giving close attention to details, making frequent mistakes in work, struggling to follow through on instructions or finish tasks, difficulties meeting deadlines, being on time, and keeping tidy, avoidance of tasks that require sustained concentration, losing important items frequently, poor planning, distractibility, and forgetfulness. In this way, ADHD can significantly affect someone’s daily functioning.
If someone wasn’t hyperactive as a child, can they have ADHD?
A diagnosis of ADHD includes many symptoms that fall into one or both of two categories: (1) inattention and (2) hyperactivity/impulsivity. This means an individual may have either a combined presentation (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms) of ADHD, predominantly inattentive presentation, or predominantly hyperactive/impulsivity presentation.
It’s also important to note that hyperactivity can present slightly differently than what we might typically imagine. Hyperactivity in both children and adults can look like restlessness, impatience, fidgeting, struggling to sit still, talking excessively, or interrupting others.
How do you know if someone has ADHD – what if they are just distractible?
Some of the symptoms of ADHD are common experiences among people and can have many other causes. In order to determine if someone is experiencing ADHD, they will undergo a comprehensive assessment with their clinician which includes obtaining details from the individual about their current and childhood experiences, their medical history, other mental health difficulties, and sometimes external information such as school reports or details from family members.
People with ADHD just have a different way of thinking and functioning. Do we need to worry about treatment?
Whilst individuals with ADHD thrive in many ways and may not see notable impacts in their lives, the condition can also cause various impairments in personal, social, intimate, and occupational functioning. For example, individuals with ADHD are commonly found to have decreased productivity and failure at work, difficulties with self-image and self-esteem, emotional difficulties and relationship conflict, substance use difficulties, increased injury and accidents, and increased risky behaviour. Intervention can help individuals to improve their quality of life, increase success (work or otherwise), and harness their strengths.
Does ADHD need medication – are we overmedicating?
In some mental health conditions, the recommended first-line approach to treatment may be psychological therapy, however stimulant medication is shown to be effective in the management of core ADHD symptoms. This doesn’t mean however, that medication is always necessary. Treatment needs and treatment goals will differ from person to person. However, a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment often tends to be an effective approach and recommendation in the management of ADHD.
Is medication the only way to manage ADHD?
There are various methods that can help someone with ADHD manage their symptoms as well as improve their overall functioning, and medication may not always be suitable. Methods include lifestyle changes such as sleep and exercise, psychological therapy (e.g. CBT) that aids in helping to address unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and create structure, coaching, physical changes in the individual’s workplace or university that can help them succeed, and education of people surrounding the individual.
If you believe you may be experiencing ADHD, talk to your GP or medical professional who will be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further assessment, diagnosis, and treatment – exploring both pharmacological and non-pharmacological options. PsychMed also offer comprehensive ADHD assessments, contact us to inquire further: (08) 8232 2424.
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