Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent and well-known neurodevelopmental condition. Research has shown that 2.8% of adults worldwide struggle with ADHD. However, because of its reputation as a childhood disorder, few people realize the prevalence of ADHD among adult populations.
ADHD is a developmental disorder of the brain, and while symptoms may change with age, most people still experience them in their adult lives. The commonly held belief of “growing out of it” is a misunderstanding that can cause people to not seek treatment for their ADHD symptoms because they may not even know that they have ADHD.
At SoCal Mental Health’s Orange County mental health treatment center, we can help treat adult ADHD using individual therapy and community-living environments that work together to create the best outcomes for clients coping with adult ADHD.
What Is ADHD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. People with ADHD can be primarily inattentive or hyperactive depending on their symptoms or, most often, they exhibit a combination of the two. When these symptoms persist, they can not only inhibit daily function but may interfere with personal development.
Aspects of inattention include:
Hyperactivity is the most visible manifestation of the disorder.
People exhibit hyperactive behaviors such as:
Adults with ADHD may also experience decreased inhibition compared to their peers. When distracting thoughts pop up, or an attractive diversion crosses their path, they are more likely to engage with it, rerouting their attention from the task at hand. This pattern of behavior is referred to as impulsivity, the tendency to behave without thinking. In all forms of ADHD, impulse management is an area for improvement.
The severity of ADHD symptoms varies depending on age and context. For example, hyperactivity symptoms are usually the most noticeable during early childhood, while inattention is often first displayed in elementary and middle school. In adulthood, this hyperactivity may be limited to fidgeting and experienced as feelings of jitteriness and impatience. ADHD symptoms differ depending on the circumstances.
Ways to improve symptoms temporarily include:
Living With ADHD
If teachers and families fail to recognize ADHD in childhood, a person may not be diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. They may have a mild form of the condition or have been able to manage the disorder well enough until they are faced with the demands of adulthood, especially at work. Sometimes, adult students with undiagnosed ADHD have problems in college because of the high-level concentration needed for college courses.
People with ADHD are often brilliant and superb creative thinkers. Many own their own businesses and thrive as their own boss. However, this is usually after they have learned to harness their gifts and developed strategies to deal with the problematic areas of their condition.
Those who remain untreated are often robbed of the fruits of their talents when symptoms make the perseverance needed to achieve their goals extremely taxing. ADHD often poses serious challenges for those trying to manage their personal and professional lives. In addition, many adults with ADHD don’t know they have it.
They see their symptoms as personal failings rather than a difference with cognitive processes. It’s common for those with ADHD to feel like it’s impossible to keep things in order, arrive at appointments on time, or hold a steady job. Daily tasks such as waking up on time, securing what they need for the day ahead, making it to work, and being productive throughout the day can be particularly difficult for adults with undiagnosed ADHD.
These adults may have a history of problems with school, careers, and relationships. They may feel impatient and attempt to multitask with diminishing results. Due to lowered inhibition, there is a tendency to seek immediate solutions rather than building toward a reward.
Inattention is one of the primary characteristics of ADHD, and adults living with it have similar struggles.
As such, those with ADHD may frequently:
- Miss details, make careless mistakes at school, on the job, or during other activities
- Have problems following along in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy readings
- Appear not to listen or pay attention
- Not follow through on the directions given
- Start projects but soon lose focus and get easily sidetracked
- Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as efficient task management, keeping belongings in order, having messy workstations and poor time management, and failing to meet deadlines
- Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained effort with minimal engagement, such as preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy texts
- Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as wallets, keys, documents, eyeglasses, and cell phones
- Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forget daily tasks and responsibilities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments
Hyperactivity in adults with ADHD may manifest in different ways than it does in children, but it is still present and can make the demands of the adult world even more challenging.
Signs of hyperactivity include:
- Fidgeting and squirming, having trouble sitting still
- Excessive talking or interrupting
- A “hot temper”
- Touching or playing with objects
For those struggling to perform, do well in school, or keep their life in order, constant frustration can lead to guilt and blaming oneself for being unable to focus and complete tasks. Untreated ADHD can even lead to co-occurring disorders, also known as comorbidities, such as depression and anxiety.
Many of the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety overlap with ADHD and can reinforce each other. People with ADHD and depression or anxiety often have problems regulating mood changes, getting motivated to complete assignments, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
They may see great ideas fail in their execution due to a lack of attention or perseverance, leading to low self-esteem or self-worth. Those with untreated ADHD are also prone to developing substance use disorders (SUDs) as they try to find a solution to their inattentiveness, hyperactivity, or depression symptoms.
While ADHD is not curable, it is highly treatable given the right resources and care. Typical treatment for adults with ADHD consists of a combination of medication and psychosocial treatment. Prescription stimulants and some non-stimulant medications are highly effective in treating the primary symptoms of inattentiveness and impulsivity.
Behavioral therapy is also a recognized part of ADHD treatment and adding cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) to medication can be an effective treatment strategy for adults with ADHD. CBT helps people with ADHD by making them more aware of the symptoms and providing some coping techniques.
At SoCal Mental Health, our team of licensed psychiatrists can offer treatment strategies uniquely suited to the individual looking to overcome ADHD while in a community-based environment for healing. Our clinicians conduct comprehensive evaluations to determine accurate diagnoses for ADHD and other mental health issues. We then tailor medicated and non-medicated treatments based on the needs and preferences of our clients.
Customized treatment plans ensure measurable progress at a comfortable pace. Our highly trained staff work with clients step-by-step to develop new skills for better organization and improved memory and focus. These new skills can then be practiced in a safe, controlled community environment where real-world problems can be solved with a network of support.