Think You May Have ADHD, You May Be Suffering From Something Else


We know there is a surge of children being diagnosed and treated for attention deficit disorders.

What is not widely known is the flux in adults seeking help for what they believe to be symptoms of adult ADHD.

With the demands on the average adult- juggling work, home, and after-school activities- having difficulty staying on task is understandable, but could there be an underlying culprit for your struggles?

There is a lot of controversy around doctors over-diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and subsequently, the medication that comes along with it.

With that in mind, it begs the question, how many adults are really dealing with true ADHD as described by the DSM, and can adults really get it in later in life?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), fifth edition, is the manual published by the American Psychiatric Association which classifies all mental disorders.

According to the DSM-5, ADHD there has to be symptoms present “in multiple settings before the age of 12”, reports Psychology Today.

There are very few exceptions to having an onset of ADHD later in life such as cases of traumatic brain injury.

Most adults are not familiar with these criteria and are coming in for professional help in what they believe to be symptoms of ADHD.

Motivated by this phenomenon, a group of researchers looked at a study on the disorder in the 1990’s that compared pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD in children.

The comparison group was 239 kids who did not fit the criteria for ADHD at the time of the initial testing.

Researchers kept up with these children through adulthood “using an assessment procedure that included rating scales, structured interviews, and examination of substance use,” according to Psychology Today.

Interestingly, at first glance 8.9 percent of the comparison group tested positive in adulthood for ADHD, presenting with an impairment from the symptoms.

However, when the study dug a little deeper into the lifestyles of that subgroup it was found that 14% were due to cannabis use, 24% had other mental illnesses to blame, and 33% only exhibited symptoms in one setting; thus making it void of a diagnosis.

All in all, a staggering 95% of the participants who reported having ADHD symptoms did not fit the diagnosis at all.

Patients who appear like they may have adult onset ADHD, are more likely to be engaging in substance abuse or have other psychiatric issues; requiring more scrutiny in diagnosis.

When an adult has all the symptoms of ADHD, according to the DSM-5, it is more likely that they had it as a child than they developed later in life.

Adult-onset ADHD is reported to have more than 3 million cases a year in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.

How many of these are individuals with other underlying causes that are unnoticed? If the study above were a true, or even partial, representation of the population, then most of the cases are not an accurate assessment.

Web Md reports that adults who are diagnosed with ADHD had it as a child, and just went undiagnosed.

Some children are able to outgrow the diagnosis, while about 60% of the cases have it follow them into adulthood, affecting men and woman equally.

Symptoms including trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior characterize ADHD, but as every busy parent knows these are also symptoms of running non-stop with little sleep.

Reading the same page of a magazine 5 times, because you can’t remember what it said while impulsively shoving a piece of chocolate in your mouth, as you try to simultaneously feed the baby is not an uncommon occurrence for any mom.

This does not mean you have ADHD, but that you are trying to get things done, and enjoy yourself. There is just not enough hours in the day for all you would like to do in a day.

If you are one of the rare adults who genuinely have ADHD, discovered later in life, it is not a death sentence on your productivity. There are ways you can manage symptoms at home to live a more enriched life, apart from medication and therapy.

Making goals for yourself helps stay on task throughout the day and remind yourself what you need to accomplish. It is also, a way to make sure you do everything you want to with your time, as Mommy Underground has previously reported.

Forming a routine and maintaining that structure helps give a busy mind some focus, fitting all the necessary tasks in a days time.

Rely on your support systems, letting those close to you know your strengths and weaknesses so they can give you proper help where it’s needed most.

Try not to think about the day as a whole, that can be overwhelming for anybody, but take everything one step at a time, not skipping to the next task until one is finished.

Take time to relax, even if you have to put sticky notes around the house reminding you to stop and take 5 deep breaths.

While these tips don’t diminish ADHD, they make it much more easy to manage, giving you more productive days with less chaos.

If you think you have ADHD as an adult, review other areas of your life to see if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed instead.

Remember that, as with all mental disorders, there are others that go through the same struggles you are, and there is support and answers when you reach out.

Please let us know in the comments section if you were diagnosed with adult-onset ADHD, and how you manage your symptoms.




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