Forgetfulness, lack of focus, inability to concentrate – it might sound like a description of a child going through a rough day in the classroom, but these are also the symptoms experienced by adults affected by ADHD.
What does Adult ADHD look like?
According to Pieter du Plessis, a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Denmar Mental Health Services, ADHD is a common condition. “It most likely develops in childhood, but is only diagnosed later,” he says, noting that as children, sufferers would have struggled to sit still at their desks and would have been easily distracted. Without an apparent reason for this behaviour, their parents and teachers may have dismissed them as lazy or naughty.
In adulthood, the condition manifests in much the same way: people with this disorder typically struggle with executive functioning skills like planning and time management – the basic skills that help us get through the day and meet our goals without going off track. It is easy for a child to cope if these skills are compromised, Du Plessis says, because there is usually an adult to help them take care of their responsibilities. However, things become more difficult as one moves into adulthood, where distractedness can lead to missed deadlines, tasks left unattended, items lost, and plans forgotten. Relationships may also be affected, as friends and family become frustrated and irritated when you aren’t listening to them or if you interrupt them because you have become distracted.
Impulsiveness is another symptom of this condition, leading people to make poorly thought- out decisions. Added to this, sufferers struggle to regulate their emotions, and so may be prone to overreacting in situations, without taking time to consider the consequences. There may, therefore, be inappropriate outbursts at work, for example, or other actions which may lead to stress, anxiety or even depression.
It's not all negative, though: Du Plessis notes that people who have Adult ADHD are highly adaptable in new situations, they like challenges, and they’re able to think very creatively.
How to treat Adult ADHD
One of the difficulties around diagnosing Adult ADHD is that it is easily confused with bipolar mood disorder. Du Plessis explains that the two conditions share many symptoms in common. Added to this, it is possible that both conditions may coexist. “ADHD tends to mimic the manic stage of bipolar, so it is important to work with a psychiatrist to create a tailored approach for your specific condition.
“ADHD is usually diagnosed through a questionnaire, where the individual is asked to go through a checklist of symptoms,” Du Plessis continues. “If enough symptoms are present, they may be considered to have the disorder.”
Treatment follows a similar course to treatment for other disorders. Although medication like Ritalin and Concerta are effectively, Du Plessis recommends supplementing this with therapy, where the patient will have an opportunity to co-create a personal development strategy that can help them get a better grip on the tasks that can be a challenge, like time management. “It’s also a good idea to make use of practical tools to help you move through your day more efficiently; for example, get into the habit of breaking work into smaller tasks so that it becomes more manageable, especially if you struggle to remain focused; set reminders on your phone so that you don’t forget important details; and establish an easy to follow routine so that you are always aware of what to do next in your day,” Du Plessis advises.