Assorted things to know about adult ADHD
I was contacted last week by someone from Healthline.com who saw the blog post about law enforcement careers and ADHD and sent along a link to Healthline’s latest infographic on ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) statistics.
And I thought, “Cool! I’ll share this in a new post, and scrounge around the Internet for other informative items about ADHD, and put them in the post too.”
So that’s what this is.
The Big Picture
It says 4% of the adult population has ADHD – that’s one out of every 25 people. It’s likely that you know a few adults who qualify for a diagnosis. (From another source, I read that many adults with ADHD may have been diagnosed as kids – around 60% of children with a diagnosis will have ADHD as adults – while others compensated well enough to get by in childhood, but can’t do it when faced with the complex demands of adulthood.)
As a geographer, I was most curious about the map that shows where ADHD is most and least common. The results surprised me a little – how about you? (I quickly Googled the reasons for the geographic distribution of ADHD in the US, and found that “further studies are needed.” We’ll check back in a few years….) The socioeconomic and racial trends are interesting also.
If you are curious about the costs of ADHD, scroll a little further down the Healthline page. The consequences of ADHD in children and adults cost Americans at least $42.5 billion each year. That isn’t just the cost of medicine and treatment; loss of work, educational expenses, and juvenile justice costs are included.
If we included the criminal justice system as a whole, not just juvenile justice, the cost figure would be much higher. This blog, from a Canadian adult ADHD coach, discusses the proportionately high incidence of ADHD (especially untreated ADHD) in the prison population, as documented in several studies around the globe. As the author says, “crime & jail are costly, treatment is cheap.” (We need to be clear, though, that the great majority of adults with ADHD are law-abiding citizens.)
Overviews at a More Personal Level
The big picture of how ADHD impacts society is important. What’s crucial for most of us, however, is getting help to cope with our own symptoms, or help for our loved ones, friends, or coworkers.
This link from Helpguide.org provides a good, upbeat starting point for learning about the symptoms and available coping strategies for adult ADHD. Here is an excerpt:
…[T]he challenges of attention deficit disorder are beatable. With education, support, and a little creativity, you can learn to manage the symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD—even turning some of your weaknesses into strengths. It’s never too late to turn the difficulties of adult ADD/ADHD around and start succeeding on your own terms.
I also found this page from the Cleveland Clinic website interesting, because it’s written from a clinician’s perspective. Among the notable pieces of information in this link are:
- that ADHD is the most heritable of psychiatric disorders.
- a summary of what’s different in brain anatomy and neurochemistry for people with ADHD
- a table summarizing common dysfunctional behavior patterns in adults
- a flow chart for how to diagnose ADHD in adults (a behind-the-scenes look!)
- a table of disorders commonly associated with, or having symptoms similar to, ADHD
- a table of medications that may be prescribed for ADHD
Young Adults and ADHD
Young adults emerging from the structured existence of high school and living with parents can find the transition to independence especially tough going if ADHD symptoms are a factor. Becoming an adult is challenging enough even without having deficits in organization, focus, follow-through, and impulse control!
This webpage from ADDvance.com includes lots of links to information about going to college, and a couple of links for those who may not be college-bound. The challenges of young adults with ADHD entering the workforce are discussed here, at Healthychildren.org. The link covers the reasons why the individual may find employment stressful, and why supervisors may be unhappy with job performance. Possible solutions are presented.
The good news is, many colleges, training programs, and employers (especially bigger ones) offer supports for people with ADHD and other invisible disabilities. The not-so-good news is, the supports may not be super effective (underfunded, understaffed, not a priority, etc.) And the supports in higher education or the working world won’t be available if you don’t have an official diagnosis, or if you don’t let it be known that you have an official diagnosis.
Getting a Diagnosis
Follow this link to find out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about getting evaluated for ADHD – including which professionals can do the diagnosis, and what they are likely to do in determining the diagnosis.
If you’re not sure you’re ready to take this step, it might be a good idea to first take at least one online test that prescreens for ADHD symptoms. Here is one such test.
“ADHD” covers a wide range of symptoms. Experts have different views about the existence of various types of ADHD. For instance, the American Psychiatric Association recognizes three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. Dr. Daniel Amen, whose use of SPECT scans was discussed in this post, has identified six types of ADD.
It’s safe to say that treatment is more likely to be effective if it’s tailored to the type of ADHD the individual has. When choosing a mental health professional, it would be a good idea to find out how specific s/he gets in ADHD diagnosis and treatment.
Treating the Symptoms
Getting a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be taking medication for it the rest of your life. Several of the links above, and several other posts in this blog, give suggestions on how to manage the negative aspects of ADHD. Here is one example of a webpage offering tips.
Having a coach, seeing a counselor, making lifestyle adjustments, exercise, spending time outdoors, dietary changes, and nutritional supplements have all helped other people. Alternative therapies may be worth a try. So while medication can be a powerful tool that yields dramatic improvement, it isn’t the only tool available.
No matter what path of treatment is chosen, it’s way better to deal with having ADHD than to live in denial and do nothing. Many adults with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD self-medicate through substance abuse. Untreated ADHD also allows the behavioral and psychological traits that often go with it (like depression, conduct disorders, anxiety, etc.) to cause more misery than they would otherwise.
Some people believe ADHD should be considered a “style” rather than a “disorder.” The first psychologist who saw our son Alan was of this persuasion. It’s a point worth acknowledging, since ADHD often comes with positive traits, including energy, creativity, flexibility, and intuition. However, the views stated in this link are by far the most common: that ADHD is a “psychiatric disorder” because it is a “condition that involves mental functioning that causes significant impairment.”
The Big Picture, Part 2
In closing, I was interested in this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially the part that talks about their research agenda. With all the studies that have been done, it surprised me how many basic questions about ADHD still don’t have an answer. I wonder if there’s adequate funding, or any funding, for the proposed research. But it’s good to know that the CDC is hoping to get a handle on the social and economic burden of ADHD, the risk factors (and therefore possible prevention) of ADHD, and what the most effective interventions are.
The information gathered above isn’t exhaustive – but I decree it to be enough for now! The big takeaway from it all for me is that ADHD is a disorder with underlying biological causes. Someone with ADHD isn’t just being a “jerk” or a “space cadet”, and can’t become more organized and less impulsive through force of will. With support, adults with ADHD can minimize the negative aspects and find a niche where their positive traits are valued. When this happens, individuals, families, the workplace, and society as a whole will all benefit.