Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), are two related neurobehavioral conditions with similar symptoms. Both disorders are identified by persistent patterns of inattention or the inability to focus. Individuals with ADHD also have issues with hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with normal life functions, such as school. While ADHD is usually associated with children, and is one of the more common mental health diagnoses in children, it also occurs in adults.
In the United States today, it is estimated that over 10.5 million adults suffer from Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. While some children grow out of attention deficiencies, for others ADHD is a lifetime struggle that continues through adulthood. The symptoms of Adult ADHD can often be more subtle than they are with children, and thus harder to pinpoint.
Because ADHD is considered more of a juvenile condition, it is under-diagnosed in adults. There is no standardized testing for ADHD in adults. Therefore, it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional. The symptoms of ADHD can often be mistaken for other behavioral disorders, or just chalked up to being part of a person’s character. What differentiates ADHD from just being forgetful or energetic is that the symptoms of the disorder can significantly and negatively impact everyday life. Adults with ADHD have trouble sitting still in business meetings, completing chores around the house, or participating in social gatherings. It is imperative that individuals who suspect they may have ADHD receive a proper evaluation from a doctor who has experience treating the condition in adults, not just children.
The good news is that ADHD is highly treatable. Since its inclusion in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1987, there have been a number of medications developed to treat attention deficits and hyperactivity. While the initial wave of ADD / ADHD medications were primarily stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, since then newer, non-stimulant medications have been developed to treat the condition, such as Atomoxetine (brand name Strattera). A mental health professional may also recommend therapy to help manage the symptoms of ADHD that medication cannot. Certain behavioral therapies, especially CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) are useful in teaching both adolescents and adults skills to manage impulsivity and behavior.