For years, health professionals believed the signs and symptoms of ADHD vanished by the time a child became a teenager, with no long-lasting effects. Now they know that as many as two out of three children will continue to battle the disorder into adulthood. In addition, they are finding that an increasing number of adults who were misdiagnosed with other psychiatric conditions (such as a learning disability or attitude problem) or who went undiagnosed through childhood and adolescence actually have ADHD. For these individuals, ADHD can wreak havoc with personal relationships and pose problems at work; they also may be prone to substance abuse and depression. But with proper treatment, adults can learn to harness and capitalize on the extra energy and ingenuity often associated with the disorder.
To diagnose ADHD in adults, practitioners conduct a thorough review of their childhood, take a detailed behavioral history and assess their academic and job performance. Family relationships and the nature and quality of friendships are evaluated. Sometimes family members are asked to help identify symptoms or behaviors consistent with the disorder.
Interestingly, some adults who do not have ADHD may label themselves as having the disorder, even though they did not exhibit its disabling symptoms during childhood — a prerequisite for the diagnosis. This social phenomenon puts some adults at significant risk for a misdiagnosis. Meanwhile, women may be underdiagnosed because of a pervasive belief that girls do not develop ADHD.
- Symptoms of ADHD in adulthood mirror those most commonly noted in childhood.
- Adults with ADHD are at particular risk for low self-esteem or increased frustration. They also are likely to struggle on the job due to difficulties with staying focused or organized.
- Many adults may have been previously misdiagnosed with other psychiatric or behavior conditions or may have been incorrectly labeled as having a personality or character disorder.
- Counseling can help adults understand how ADHD may have contributed to the challenges they’ve faced through the years in personal relationships and work performance.
- Stimulants often effectively manage the symptoms of ADHD in adults. Sometimes antidepressants can alleviate depression or the symptoms of co-existing disorders such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Bussing, R. (2006). Diagnosing ADHD/ADD in Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/diagnosing-adhdadd-in-adults/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.