This can be complex question to answer, as the answer depends on how you choose to define ADHD. ADHD is considered to be a neuro-biological condition. However, along with this notion it is also considered to be an SpLD; much the same as dyslexia is considered to be an SpLD.
Essentially ADHD is a pattern of traits, which historically is associated and picked up in childhood. Parents and teachers notice that a child:
- unusually over-active
- gets distracted all the time, cannot stick to doing something for any length of time
- is impulsive, and does things on the spur of the moment without thinking
- and has great difficult in concentrating.
Many of us have at least some of these traits, but do not have the diagnosis. To have the diagnosis of ADHD, these traits can present problems, that must be bad enough to interfere with how you get on with other people or with how you perform at work or school.
ADHD difficulties can recede with age but can continue into adulthood. Over-activity usually reduces, but impulsivity, poor concentration and risk-taking can get worse, in turn leading to difficult situations. These can interfere with work, learning and how you get on with other people. Depression, anxiety feelings of low self-esteem and drug misuse are more common in adults with ADHD.
If you have these difficulties as s child or teenager, you would usually see either a CAMHS or a Paediatric Service. A trained specialist would see you for an assessment interview lasting around 1-2 hours. They would also get information about your early childhood and current problems from your family and school teachers. A child or young person with a diagnosis of ADHD could then be transferred to an adult psychiatrist as they got older, particularly if their problems remain.
As an adult there are there are three ways that a diagnosis can be obtained. Recently is been accepted for specialist teachers and educational/occupational psychologists to provide a diagnosis for Adult ADHD. Assessments identify both the problems described above, but also how troublesome they are, they require a number of questionnaire being completed by yourself and an informer (someone who has known you for a long time e.g. partner, flatmate, sibling etc).
Most children diagnosed with ADHD in the UK find it hard to concentrate, are over-active and impulsive.
In the US, the DSM diagnostic system allows for an “inattentive” type without the overactivity. This is sometime called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
You find that:
- You may get easily distracted and find it hard to take notice of details, particularly with things you find boring.
- It’s hard to listen to other people – you may find yourself finishing their sentences for them or interrupting them, or just saying things at the wrong time.
- It’s hard to follow instructions.
- You find it hard to organise yourself and start a lot of things without ever finishing them.
- You find it hard to wait or when there’s nothing much going on – you fidget and can’t sit still.
- You are forgetful and tend to lose or misplace things.
- You easily get irritable, impatient or frustrated and lose your temper quickly.
- You feel restless or edgy, have difficulty turning your thoughts off, and find stress hard to handle.
- You tend to do things on the spur of the moment, without thinking, which gets you into trouble.
- According to statistics, it seems to be more common in boys than in girls, however this could be due to the nature of gender behaviour differences.
- Around 3 to 5 in every 100 school-aged children have ADHD.
- More than 2 out of every 3 of those diagnosed with ADHD as children continue to have these problems as teenagers. 2 out of 3 of these will still have difficulties as adults.
Research suggest that genes are involved – a third with a diagnosis of ADHD have at least one parent with similar difficulties. Research also suggests that ADHD is common amongst individuals if their mothers had difficulties during pregnancy and/or childbirth. These include exposure to drugs or medications in pregnancy, low weight at birth, brain infections, exposure to poisons and some forms of stress to the mother.
There is also evidence in differences of brain structure with individuals diagnosed as ADHD, but environmental factors in life can also make a person more prone to develop ADHD.
The are a number of options that can be pursued, but it depends on the what you are open to. These can be accessed privately and/or through the NHS, but should be discussed with a specialist before a decision is made on what to do.
CBT approaches can help you:
- Find ways to make sure that you do important tasks.
- Find ways to organise your life better.
- Get self-critical thoughts into perspective and so feel better about yourself.
- Reduce unhelpful feelings of anxiety.
These are mostly ‘stimulant’ medications, related to amphetamines. They include methylphenydate and dexamphetamine (names they are commonly known as are Ritalin, Concerta, Equasym, Dexadrine). These have a quick effect on the difficulties associated to ADHD, with it eventually wearing off during the night. There are slow-release versions of the medications, which means that these can be taken once a day as their effect last throughout the day. These drugs are legally ‘controlled’ drugs in UK as they can be abused. There are also known side-effects that include weight loss, and occasionally, psychosis. Atomoxetine (also known as Strattera) is a ‘non-stimulant’ medication and takes a few weeks to begin to have an effect and also stays in the system for a few weeks. It too has its side-effects, which can include stomach cramps and diarrhoea, and there have been in some cases reports of increased ideas of self-harm.
There it’s on medications for ADHD in general. With regard to the efficacy of the medication, there is also much debate based on the neurobiological nature of ADHD. It is suggested that ADHD difficulties are associated to an individual’s ability to absorb a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Dopamine is what is associated to being able to do the things that individuals with ADHD find difficult to do. It is suggested that the medications help the absorption of dopamine and help with the difficulties ADHD is associated with.
Yes. This is known as ADHD, “Inattentive type”. Adults with this who are likely to present difficulties associated to this are frequent daydreamers and find focusing an arduous task.
Adults assessed as ADHD are at risk of not attaining job performance that would be expected and can also have social difficulties (including problems with co-workers and conflicts with bosses or supervisors). They may also have a history of changing jobs frequently due to these problems. Problems at work can be attributed to not presenting work on time (such as a presentation or report), or even if it has been completed. Many have “chaotic” or disorganised desks, offices or briefcases.
If you are thinking of taking a blood or saliva sample to your GP for them to test for ADHD, then No. However someone trained and qualified can conduct a comprehensive assessment to ascertain whether an individual has ADHD. ADHD among adults is most commonly diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, however there specialist who are trained diagnosticians like Specialist Teachers, Educational or Occupational Psychologists who can assess for ADHD but can not prescribe medication.
If you do not wish to be prescribed medication then you could contact us for an assessment and we can put you in touch with someone who can perform a diagnosis. For example if you are a full-time student on a higher education course or employed, your HEI or employer could fund the assessment, making it possible that NeuroKnowHow to conduct the assessment.
If however you wish to use medication then you would more appropriately see an NHS specialist. Currently there is a quite a long waiting list for a NHS diagnosis, but it can be obtained faster through a private privately. community and on the insurance plan the individual is covered by. The person conducting the evaluation should be a professional trained in assessing ADHD.
The medications prescribed for ADHD are classed as psychostimulant and are a controlled drug. The medications have been studied extensively and hardly any long-term side effects have been discovered. When side effects occur, it is usually due to the initial introduction to the medication and the individual getting used to the medication; these are generally mild and last for only a short time. The most common side effects that are reported are the loss of appetite and insomnia, as the medication wares off, the individual on the medication may experience hyperactivity. Side effects of the medication can be explored with the professional prescribing the medication usually by altering the dosage or type of medication.
There has been evidence that non-medication treatments can have significant effects. There are a variety of interventions that are used to help with the difficulties associated to ADHD in adults, these include ADHD coaching, psychological treatments, psychotherapy and a healthy life style. Exercise has proven to help with hyperactivity and the mood control associated with ADHD. It is suggested by many experts in the field of ADHD, there are also significant benefits, paying attention to diet, including high protein and Omega rich foods, with current research being conducted as a join project throughout Europe.