Nearly everyone has difficulty paying attention or focusing at some point. Usually we are able to make a few changes and reengage with minimal disruption to our day. For individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, inattention and other related symptoms are daily struggles that may interfere with their work, relationships and family.
What is adult ADHD
Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is fairly common with recent reports finding more than 3 million cases per year are diagnosed in the United States annually. It usually includes a constellation of symptoms clustered in three main areas: difficulty concentrating or attending to things (or people) for sustained periods of time; hyperactivity; and impulsivity. Adult ADHD differs somewhat from childhood ADHD in that the hyperactivity symptoms usually decrease as the individual enters adulthood. But adults with adult ADHD still struggle with impulsiveness, restlessness and maintaining attention.
Causes of adult ADHD
The exact causes of ADHD are unclear. While research into the causes of ADHD continue, the general scientific consensus is that genetics may play a role in ADHD as well as problems with the central nervous system during crucial stages of fetal development. Certain environmental factors have also been linked to the development of ADHD such as maternal alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, exposure to lead and/or brain injury.
Signs of adult ADHD
Lack of focus
Individuals with ADHD often have difficulty paying or maintaining attention. This can manifest in problems finishing projects, prioritizing tasks and being easily distracted. This may cause them to miss deadlines at work, struggle making presentations or even forget important family events.
Contrary to popular belief, some individuals with ADHD are able to attend to things-often too much. Individuals with hyperfocus attend to things so intensely and for such an extended period of time that they may lose track of time, their environment, or other obligations. They may be perpetually late to meetings or events, break promises or become so involved in an activity that they fail to notice coworkers, partners or family members.
Individuals with ADHD may act without considering others or the consequences of their actions. They may interrupt others frequently, blurt out answers, have difficulty waiting their turn or take over in social interactions.
Adults with ADHD may frequently lose items or have difficult locating things at work due to excessive clutter. They may fall behind on bills or projects. Their work performance may suffer due to their inability to prioritize and organize tasks. They may describe their lives as “out of control” or “a mess” and feel overwhelmed at work or home and be unable to get a handle on the chaos.
Restlessness and anxiety
Individuals with ADHD often describe feeling as though they have an internal motor that never shuts off. This incessant drive to do frequently leads to feelings of frustration and anxiety especially when they are unable to do something immediately. It can also cause conflicts with others due to an absence of consideration or others and circumstances.
Frequent mood swings
Everyone experiences mood swings once in a while. Individuals with ADHD feel the same emotions everyone else experiences, they just feel them more intensely and for a longer period of time. Their partners, coworkers or family members may feel confused, surprised or even upset over a perceived sudden shit in mood. Adults with ADHD often don’t realize how their behavior affects other though they will be remorseful.
Managing adult ADHD
Unfortunately there is no cure for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, it can be successfully managed using a mixture of medication and behavioral therapy. Medications including a combination of psychostimulants/nonstimulants and antidepressants can be helpful.
Research indicates that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help with effective time management strategies as well as learning to regulate mood and impulsivity. CBT works by helping individuals with ADHD identify negative automatic thoughts that may lead to unwanted out comes and focuses on replacing this cognitive distortions with rational thoughts.