Adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects roughly 8 million Americans, and yet often goes undiagnosed and untreated. This lesson covers the symptoms of adult ADHD and what medications and treatments are currently available.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the reality show My Brain, My Life. Today we have two contestants: Bob and Tom.
Bob navigates through his life with neurotypical brain functioning. Also known as Mr. Normal, his linear thinking and capacity to focus mean that, by society’s standards, he’s in the norm.
Tom, on the other hand, has adult ADHD. His brain functions in a whole different way, unique in how it perceives and processes information. Society says he’s got a disorder, but Tom’s not so sure.
Let’s put our contestants to the test and see how they handle today’s Real Life Challenge!The setting: The reception desk at a therapist’s officeThe challenge: Pay for an appointment and schedule another oneReceptionist says: ‘That will be $82 dollars, sir. Would you like to schedule another appointment? We have an opening next Tuesday, the 9th, at 3 p.m.’
Differences in the Brain
Bob and his Neurotypical Brain: Briefly distracted by his plans for lunch, Bob is caught daydreaming. He chuckles and says. ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that? My mind was elsewhere.’ Bob’s focus is back; he pays his bill, schedules an appointment, and leaves.
Congratulations, Bob! You resolved the challenge in less than two minutes!Tom’s inner dialogue with his ADHD Brain: ”Focus. Use the resources your therapist taught you! Breathe deeply; count to ten! 1,2,3,4, 5, wait, what did the receptionist say? 7, 8, 9, 82, 9, 3..
.’ The string of numbers has thrown Tom off. He stares blankly, a knot in his chest, no longer breathing.’Just nod as if you’ve understood!’ he tells himself.
He pats his coat and pants pockets, searching for his wallet, ‘It’s in here somewhere. Keep searching. Am I free next Tuesday? I’m supposed to take Kate to the dentist on Tuesday. Wait, was it today that I was supposed to take her?’ (Yes, Tom, it was. An hour ago.)Tom finds his wallet, opens it, sees a shopping list.
‘This is for dinner tonight. There’s a sale on beef at the grocery store. I’ll stop there on the way home. They have good deals. Wait, stop! That’s not important! What did the receptionist ask? Just focus!”No, not the grocery store. Kate mentioned a new butcher shop she wanted me to go to.
I wrote the name on the back of the parking stub and put it in my wallet. No, in my pocket. Pants pocket? Shirt? Coat? Where are my car keys?’Tom notices that the receptionist is looking up at him expectantly, but he has no idea what the question was. Paralyzing panic and confusion set in as he continues to aimlessly search his pockets for the parking stub, the keys. ‘Back pocket.
Oh, there’s the overdue credit card bill I was supposed to pay and mail!’Tom’s wallet slips from his hands and thuds to the ground. Small change and a flurry of old parking stubs tumble out of his coat pocket as he bends down to retrieve the wallet. ‘Where are my keys?!’Overwhelmed with self-loathing and frustration, Tom stands up and blurts out in a strangled voice, ‘WHAT?!?’ thinking to himself, ‘Maybe I’ll pick up chicken instead.’Well Tom, time’s up and we’re still waiting! How in the world do you function on a daily basis?Tom has severe adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, a behavioral condition that affects eight million adults in America. Help is available, yet over 80 percent of adults with ADHD go undiagnosed and untreated.
Many people do not even know that they have ADHD; they just know that their daily life is a series of challenges.
What Are the Symptoms of Adult ADHD?
The behaviors that characterize adult ADHD are impulsivity, restlessness, and distractibility.There are many ways that the incapacity to self-regulate behavior, emotions, and attention plays out in an adult’s life. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty remaining attentive
- Inability to focus on a task
- Lack of follow-through on projects and responsibilities
- Chronic procrastination
- Speaking impulsively or out of turn
- Poor time and money management
- Mood swings
Not all people with ADHD experience the same intensity or types of symptoms. There is a strong link between the severity of ADHD symptoms and an individual’s capacity to succeed in life functions, such as work, driving, schooling, and interpersonal relationships.
Treatment of ADHD
ADHD never goes away. The disorder is not ‘curable’, but it is highly treatable. With proper treatment, symptoms can become more manageable and thought processes clearer, bringing monumental improvements in the quality of life of ADHD adults such as Tom.Current treatment of adult ADHD involves medication, pyschological counseling, or a combination of the two.
ADHD symptoms such as poor time management and procrastination can hamper treatment that is purely based on counseling. Medication in conjunction with therapy has proven to be most effective in helping ADHD adults bring their symptoms under control.
In an effort to improve concentration and decrease fatigue in the adult with ADHD, stimulants are generally the first course of treatment prescribed. Faster acting then their non-stimulant counterparts, they can produce side effects such as loss of appetite and high blood pressure in some individuals.
Common brand names for the stimulants are Adderall, Concerta, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Metadate, Ritalin and Vyvanse.Non-stimulants may be prescribed if the use of stimulants by a patient is not recommended. Common nonstimulant drugs for the treatment of adult ADHD include Intuniv, Kapvay, and Strattera.
Adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition characterized by impulsivity, restlessness, and distractibility.
Completing everyday tasks and responsibilities can be a major challenge for the ADHD adult. While the disorder cannot be cured, treatment is available in the form of prescription medications, psychological counseling, or a combination of the two.