Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 11% of children in the U.S., with over twice the number of boys than girls diagnosed with this condition. Less well-publicized is the fact that ADHD also impacts adults. About a third of the children diagnosed with ADHD carry the disorder with them into adulthood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 4.4% of adults have ADHD.
ADHD Awareness Month is an annual effort to educate the public about the signs and symptoms of this condition. Many adults with ADHD were never formally diagnosed as children and have struggled for years to manage the demands of everyday life. Once diagnosed, they can receive the help and treatment they need to learn how to cope with this disorder.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that is usually diagnosed in school-aged children, with symptoms of ADHD often becoming apparent within the classroom. Children with ADHD are usually diagnosed between the ages of 6-8, although some are diagnosed earlier. Symptoms of childhood ADHD include:
- Constant fidgeting
- Unable to sit still
- Excessive talking
- Easily distracted
- Being unable to wait their turn
- Unable to concentrate on tasks
- Being forgetful and losing things
- Interrupting conversations
- Being in constant motion
A certain number of children will continue to struggle with ADHD into their teen and adult years. In these older demographics, ADHD can look slightly different. Symptoms of ADHD in adults include:
- Trouble staying on task
- Poor organizational and time management skills
- Mood swings
- Poor time management skills
- Chronic boredom
- Easily frustrated
- Difficulty controlling anger
- A low stress tolerance
- Poor listening skills
- Substance use
An individual with ADHD will be diagnosed with one of three subtypes: predominantly inattentive type ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD or combined type ADHD. The treatment plan is based upon that specific ADHD subtype.
Managing adult ADHD
Treatment for ADHD in teens and adults often includes a combination of both psychotherapy and a stimulant or non-stimulant medication, depending on the variety of ADHD. Where a young child with ADHD may benefit from behavioral therapy or behavior modification strategies, teens and adults are better served with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and making some lifestyle adjustments.
Some of the things that can help teens and adults manage their ADHD include:
- Using organization tools: Individuals with ADHD often struggle to manage appointments and important dates. Using smartphone apps, planners or a daily to-do list can help with task management and reduce daily stress.
- Getting regular exercise: Movement and exercise are especially helpful for those with ADHD. Since exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, it can improve executive functioning including things like decision-making, memory and self-control.
- Managing stress levels: Learning how to regulate stress is a crucial skill for individuals with ADHD. Activities like mindfulness, deep breathing techniques and guided imagery can be very effective for managing stress.
Pharmacotherapy is often included in the treatment plan for managing the symptoms of ADHD. Stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse, Dexedrine, Concerta or Ritalin may be prescribed for teens and adults. Examples of non-stimulant medications include Intuniv, Kapvay and Strattera.
About ADHD Awareness Month
ADHD Awareness Month is sponsored by the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Their goal is to provide information and guidance to individuals or their loved ones that may be struggling with the symptoms but are not yet diagnosed. The goal is to highlight recent clinical study data and research that offers a broader understanding of ADHD and to offer treatment options.
Having ADHD can adversely impact school and work performance, cause relationship problems, lead to substance use disorder and many other problems. ADHD Awareness Month helps spread the message that the sooner someone receives guidance and support from a mental health professional, the better their quality of life will be.
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