Adults experience ADHD too

ADHD is not just common in children but also in adults

This post is also available in Dutch.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders. Children who experience ADHD symptoms may have trouble keeping focus, controlling impulsive behaviors and/or be overly active.

We often think of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as a condition that exclusively affects children. It is common to believe that once a child reaches adulthood, he/she will be able to overcome an impulsive drive and gain more self-control. In reality, ADHD is not a mere condition of childhood. ADHD and related symptoms can present itself as an impairing, lifelong condition in adults. Nevertheless, ADHD is often underdiagnosed in adults, and, as a result, there are high societal costs associated its intervention.

What are the symptoms

Although ADHD appears differently among adults, of which the majority is likely to experience inner restlessness instead of more explicit behavior in children; the core symptoms mainly include three aspects:

  1. Hyperactivity refers to excessive movement. For instance being not able to stay seated in classroom or in workplace.
  2. Impulsivity refers to decisions or actions taken without thinking through the consequences. For example cutting into conversations or taking over what others are doing.
  3. Inattention refers to challenges mainly with focusing. For example being easily distracted during lectures.

Increased recognition of ADHD in adults

The definition of ADHD is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) issued by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM is a fundamental source in psychiatry, as it lists and describes all the known psychiatric conditions to date. However, this manual has gone through many changes across the years, mainly due to the refinement of diagnostic criteria for the listed conditions. The definition of ADHD, like many other psychiatric disorders, also went through some changes. For example, one modification concerns age. The age criterion of 12 years or younger for defining ADHD is no longer listed. This change indicates that ADHD is not specific to children but that it can also develop later in life, during adulthood. Accordingly, some cases of adults with ADHD symptoms are now considered to meet the full criteria for ADHD while before they may have been considered as cases in partial remission.

Consequences and effective intervention

In adults, the impact of symptoms may result in very critical consequences because of the high social demands that can be experienced in adulthood. For example, there is a higher risk of relationships and jobs being short-lived; an increase in the number of driving accidents; as well as in dog bites and burns. Additionally, ADHD adults often display unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and alcohol dependence.

Based on these potential consequences, it is of great importance to make an early diagnosis in adults. Meanwhile, there are effective measures that can ameliorate the situation with proper intervention. Psychological interventions include, however, are not limited to psycho-education, cognitive therapy, supportive coaching and/or getting family support. If you encounter severe symptoms that disrupt your daily life, it is important to talk to your doctor for help.

Author: Ping Chen
Buddy: Martina Arenella
Editor: Ellen Lommerse
Translation: Jill Naaijen
Editor translation: Wessel Hieselaar

Picture credit to ABDALLA M on unsplash

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