Putting your mental health first
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: it may be a psychiatric disorder that is normally applied to kids, but there are actually a number of adults who are afflicted with it, as well. However, many people (especially women) tend to ignore the signs and, thus, do not get the help they need. We recently spoke with Dr. Annick Vincent, author of the e-book My Brain Still Needs Glasses, who shared with us the symptoms of ADHD and why it’s never too late in life to receive treatment.
What percentage of adults suffers from ADHD?
Dr. Vincent says that this number is, according to a U.S. study published in 2006, at approximately 4%. “This was a community study where they [the researchers] were looking for bipolar, anxiety and ADHD in adults,” she explains. “And at that time, only 10% of those adults were receiving treatment […], and half of them had consulted mental health services.” Experts weren’t good at recognizing the signs back then, but Dr. Vincent hopes that, after all these years, things are better now However, “there are still plenty of adults who [haven’t been diagnosed with] ADHD and are still struggling.”
Now, however, we have more information on adult ADHD. “People tend to recognize themselves in articles they read, the movies they watch,” explains Dr. Vincent. “And workplaces are also more in-tune with their employees’ behaviours, [noticing any] red flags.”
How would an adult know if they have ADHD? Can they simply mistake it for something else?
“It is difficult when you don’t know what to look for,” says the expert. “[ADHD consists of] inattention symptoms, hyperactive restlessness, and impulsivity.” Dr. Vincent says that children can have all three, but an adult may have internal hyperactivity, such as difficulty when waiting for one’s turn, restlessness, and so on.
How can someone who is balancing work, home and a social life deal with an ADHD diagnosis?
“Adults with ADHD have difficulty organizing all the stimuli that they see, hear and feel,” Dr. Vincent explains. “They are all difficult to filter and organize.” These people need to put in extra effort, and are left exhausted at the end of the day.
They also can have difficulty to stay on track with what they’re thinking and doing. They’re more forgetful, but it’s not a memory problem,” she tells us. “It’s simply their way the brain works to keep in mind what’s needed at that moment. They’re easily distracted and sidetracked, [are] less organized, and require more time to do things.”
How can they cope? “First thing, you have to know whether it is ADHD or not. If you have it, you [then must] understand that your brain is built differently, and that it’s essential to learn healthy habits,” she recommends. One major one is to use organizational tips and tricks: such as at the office, cutting your tasks into smaller parts is wise and can help. And if you’re sensitive to noise due to, say, an open concept office space, wearing earplugs or even listening to music can offer solace.
If these don’t help, then you can seek medical help, and perhaps get a prescription for medication to treat your ADHD symptoms.
What causes ADHD in adults? Is it dormant from the time they were kids, or does it simply manifest itself at a certain point when they’re older?
Dr. Vincent says that people have ADHD from the moment they are born, but that it’s sometime difficult to diagnose in young kids, since the inability to focus can be normal at that age. “If symptoms are very severe, there will be hints as a child,” she says. “Maybe at that time nothing was done, or [no one] realized it was ADHD and help wasn’t offered.” She assures that there isn’t anything that really triggers ADHD; it is simply that, after all these years, people aren’t able to compensate anymore.
Genetics also plays a factor: “Adults who come in for a consultation are parents, who come in for their kids who are diagnosed, and see themselves in their kids.”
If an adult fails to get treatment for ADHD, what long-term effects can this lead to?
In a study published last year, which followed a group of kids who had ADHD over a span of 33 years, it was shown that, if left untreated, they developed a higher rate of other problems: “These include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, difficulty in relationships, […] struggling at work and at home, are more prone to motor vehicle accidents, have a higher divorce rate, more difficulty finding and keeping a job, [as well as being] efficient at work, [and] more difficulty parenting.”
“People can still get help, no matter their age,” she assures. “[It is] simply knowing you have ADHD, and the people [in your life being aware that] you have it, which will help you and your relationships.”
For more information on ADHD, as well as guidelines on diagnosis and treatment, visit the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance website at caddra.ca.