In Brief: How to Take Control of Your Adult ADHD

Are you 17+ and having trouble paying attention and remembering things? It could be Adult ADHD. If you or someone you love has it, learn to take charge of it this way.

Life is full of daily battles for adults with ADHD. Sadly, a vast majority of them suffer in silence because they are simply not aware that their illness is treatable.

However, once they seek support to get their condition diagnosed, and start treatment, their world opens up in a way that many ADHD’ers describe as “magical.” They start to excel at planning their schedules, actively listening to others, and carrying out the given tasks.

ADHD is one of the most common disorders of the adult mind. People with ADHD struggle practically in every imaginable domain — biological, interpersonal, social, and professional.

Two typical ADHD issues are poor work performance and worsening or breakdown of close relationships. Undiagnosed and untreated, it can have disastrous effects like substance abuse, accidents, and legal issues.

If you’re an adult with ADHD or know someone who is, learning more about it can help you or them live a better life.

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How To Take Charge of Your Adult ADHD

To take charge of your adult ADHD, first, become aware of the stressful symptoms, and take a reliable online test. Then, consult a mental health expert to determine if you really have ADHD. Finally, if you are diagnosed with ADHD, adhere to the treatment plan and follow up as advised.

While it is difficult to prevent or cure ADHD, early detection is crucial as it allows for early treatment, which can greatly help people manage their symptoms.

ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Also called ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. It is a persistent neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 2.5% of adults worldwide and 4.4% of US citizens (Faraone et al., 2015)

There are 3 types of ADHD: Combined Type, Primary Inattentive Type, and Primary Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (APA DSM of Mental Disorders-IV, 2000). Most people are of the combined type, showing signs of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

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Taking charge of Your Adult ADHD: Awareness, Diagnosis, Treatment

Let’s dive into the process of taking charge of your adult ADHD, which mainly involves Awareness, Diagnosis, and Treatment.

Awareness

1. Understanding What Causes ADHD

Researchers are still trying to figure out the root cause of ADHD, but have found no success. ADHD seems complex and multifactorial in origin. The following factors may contribute to causing it:

Genetics

Many people diagnosed with ADHD have close family members with the same disorder. ADHD runs in the genes, and therefore if a family member has the condition, it’s time you went for a checkup.

Children born to mothers who had some form of anxiety disorder can have ADHD, and it can progress into adulthood undetected.

Brain Injury

An accident that causes damage to the frontal lobe of the brain may result in ADHD. The patient may lose control of their emotions and impulses.


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• Substance Abuse

Drug addiction and substance abuse among pregnant women have been identified as one of the leading causes of ADHD in children. Failure to detect and diagnose the disease in childhood may result in the child living with ADHD into adulthood.

• Environmental Factors

A person’s environment may also increase their likelihood of developing this condition.

For example, lead is a common and dangerous environmental pollutant, and its long-term effects can go unnoticed until adulthood.

A recent study found a link between lead and ADHD, suggesting that even low levels of lead can dramatically increase the risk of developing the condition (Donzelli et al., 2019).

2. Problems Faced By Adult ADHD Patients

Do you often feel restless? Do you forget the fine details about something? Are you having trouble paying attention?

Do you find it hard to switch attention from one task to another? Do you get frustrated and feel hopeless, and have difficulty managing your emotions?

The ADHD adult is always or mostly anxious, disorganized, and easily irritated. They show sudden outbursts and irrational shifts in behavior and mood. They act on their impulses without thinking and are frequently obsessed with certain things.

While those are typical signs of this mental disorder, the best approach is to get examined by a qualified mental health professional, who will provide a diagnostic report after a full ADHD test.

3. Online Self-Tests For Adult ADHD

Here are some online tests to check if you may have ADHD. Remember, the results are not a diagnosis of ADHD, but only an indicator to seek formal help from a mental health professional.

  • Take Psycom’s 3-minute Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder self-test to see if you may benefit from diagnosis and treatment. Link: ADHD Test (Self-Assessment)
  • Try the ADHD Adulthood checklist to find out a better insight into your condition before you consult your healthcare provider for ADHD. Link: Is it or isn’t it ADHD?
  • The World Health Organization’s Adult Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener can help you recognize the signs and symptoms of adult ADHD. The ASRS comprises six questions that are ranked on a scale of 0 to 4. If you have at least four of these six symptoms significantly, you may have ADHD and should seek a formal diagnosis. Link: Adult ADHD Self-Report Scales (ASRS)

Recently, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have created a smartphone app that scans the size of pupils to screen the user for ADHD.

The researchers published their findings in a paper on 29 April 2022. The app, they say, can be a low-cost and scalable option with a high degree of accuracy to help get more people screened for ADHD earlier.

Diagnosis

1. What Are The Symptoms of ADHD In Adults?

The three hallmark symptoms of ADHD are inattention (inability to keep focus), hyperactivity (excessive movements that do not fit the setting), and impulsivity (hasty acts done at the moment without thought; experts call it reduced executive functioning).

What are ADHD symptoms
Adult ADHD Symptoms

2. How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed?

An online self-test for ADHD cannot prove that you have the condition, but it may indicate that you seek expert help.

Reach out to a mental health professional and let them screen and test you for ADHD. They will confirm your diagnosis using evaluative data from various sources.

Screening may involve various diagnostic tools like symptom checklists and behavior rating scales, a question-answer session on your past and present health conditions, and an examination to rule out other mental disorders.

A comprehensive evaluation report will include a behavior rating scale that compares other patients with ADHD and your behavior.

3. Diagnostic Criteria For ADHD As Per DSM-5

Mental health specialists and clinicians in the United States use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to ensure they meet the diagnostic criteria before concluding that a patient has ADHD.

The DSM provides a standardized way to diagnose ADHD.

A person aged ≥ 17 years must have at least 5 inattentive and/or 5 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms for ≥ 6 months in ≥ 2 settings (e.g., workplace, home, church). The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with their social, academic, or occupational activities.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD are grouped according to the three significant patterns of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention:

• Inattention Symptoms

Inattention occurs when an individual has problems paying attention to the tasks at hand. Inattention can manifest itself in the following ways;

  • Displays poor listening skills
  • Loses and/or misplaces items needed to complete activities or tasks
  • Sidetracked by external or unimportant stimuli
  • Forgets daily activities
  • Diminished attention span
  • Lacks the ability to complete work and other assignments, or to follow instructions
  • Avoids or is disinclined to begin work or activities requiring concentration
  • Fails to focus on details and/or makes thoughtless mistakes in work or assignments

• Hyperactivity and Impulsivity Symptoms

Hyperactivity is when you possess too much energy and aggressiveness when doing your daily activities. In comparison, impulsivity refers to your inability to control your emotions, especially when in public spaces. Impulsivity and hyperactivity are risky conditions that can escalate to other harmful behaviors, such as drug and substance abuse and alcohol addiction.

Hyperactive Symptoms:

  • Squirms when seated or fidgets with feet/hands
  • Marked restlessness that is difficult to control
  • Appears to be driven by “a motor” or is often “on the go”
  • Lacks the ability to play and engage in leisure activities quietly
  • Incapable of staying seated in class
  • Overly talkative

Impulsive Symptoms:

  • Difficulty waiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes into conversations and activities of others
  • Impulsively blurts out answers before questions completed
Rate yourself on the core symptoms of adult ADHD with Dr. Greenaway

Rate yourself on each from 0 to 3, where 0 would mean Never or Rarely, 1 would mean that this happens Sometimes, 2 would mean it’s Often, and 3 would mean So Very Often so that it’s almost a personality trait that defines you.

Treatment

1. Treatment Options For Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD can be easily managed if detected early. For the treatment of ADHD, there are primarily two treatment options: medications and psychotherapy.

• Medicines For Adult ADHD

Medications do not cure ADHD, but they do alleviate its symptoms. They improve attention and reduce impulsivity in people diagnosed with ADHD, enabling the patient to concentrate on simple tasks in their recovery journey.

Adults with ADHD are also likely to have co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, which may need additional therapy.

The medications that most effectively improve the core symptoms of ADHD seem to have a direct effect on the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

Some experts also recommend the use of antidepressants in the treatment of ADHD in adults. The five medicines licensed for the treatment of ADHD are:

  • methylphenidate (Focalin, Concerta)
  • lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • dexamfetamine (Adderall)
  • atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • guanfacine (Tenex)

Once your doctor begins medical therapy, you need to see them regularly to monitor your progress.

• Psychotherapy For Adult ADHD

ADHD can be treated with psychotherapy too. The most commonly used no-drugs therapy is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT).

Psychotherapy is for giving adult ADHD patients personalized care to help them change their behavior, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increase their overall happiness.

Psychotherapy boosts the patient’s confidence and attentiveness, allowing them to perform better at their jobs and other daily tasks.

It may also involve getting a life coach who guides and counsels patients to avoid risky behavior such as drug dependence. The coach can also give them tips on time management, personal grooming, and health management like a habit of daily exercise.

Therapists may advise patients to consume a well-balanced diet to keep the brain relaxed. [Find out the foods that improve brain function.]

• Other Treatment Methods

Other interventions that can be added to treatment include:

You should regularly share your experiences of managing ADHD with your support system of friends and relatives.

2. Finding A Qualified ADHD Professional

Finding a trustworthy and qualified ADHD specialist can be difficult, especially if you don’t know whom to ask or where to begin. Some of the most effective strategies to find the top doctors to diagnose and manage your ADHD are:

• Ask for recommendations

One of the best ways to get a qualified doctor is by getting a referral from family and friends.

You can also talk to other people who have successfully managed their ADHD with the support of a doctor, and make an informed decision on which doctor to choose.

• Browse the Internet

In finding a qualified ADHD professional, you should research it on your own. The internet is a goldmine of helpful info, including contact details of qualified ADHD experts.

Reading people’s reviews on various platforms and forums may help you locate a therapist best suited for you. So, Google it!

• Visit your doctor

You can also contact your doctor, who will put you in touch with a professional who can help you test and treat your ADHD.

If you feel you have ADHD, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Explain to them that you are trying to get a definitive diagnosis of your mental condition.

If you receive a diagnosis of ADHD, let your doctor start you on a treatment plan to help you manage the symptoms and go about your daily life.

Final Words

Mental health disorders such as ADHD and anxiety can be managed with a variety of treatment options if diagnosed early. Adults with ADHD can enjoy normal lives and do well at work once they begin therapy. If you are an adult, take up the responsibility of seeking treatment until it is too late, so you live a balanced life.

If you want to know more, here is a great audiobook we recommend: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Second Edition: Proven Strategies to Succeed at Work, at Home, and in Relationships by Russell A. Barkley PhD and Christine M. Benton.

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What Is Overthinking Or Rumination (Psychology Made Easy)

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).


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