Growing up with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was a daily struggle, and now managing the symptoms as an adult can be even more challenging. To better understand the signs and symptoms of ADHD and the three main presentations of this disorder, I thought it was important to set the stage and briefly revisit ADHD as a child.
As a child, I didn't understand why I was different from the other children in my class. I couldn't focus, struggled to follow simple directions, and would often hear "earth to Telicia" as the teacher snapped her fingers to get me out of my trance-like daydream. The ability to control the urge to share my thoughts and stories with the other children when it was not the time or place to do so was nonexistent, and restraining the desire to move around the classroom to visit the other kids was not there. I couldn't comprehend why I was constantly getting into trouble for being disruptive and impulsive.
Like most kids my age, I felt invincible, courageous, and had an overwhelming sense of freedom. However, having ADHD often intensified these feelings, setting me apart from the other kids. There was a problem, and luckily it was recognized and addressed at a young age.
When you're young and make mistakes or act out, the outcomes are often minor - typically leading to a timeout, assigned detention, or getting "grounded," to name a few. However, having this disorder as an adult can be even more problematic because as an adult you have more responsibilities, and the consequences for your actions can be much worse. For example, adults with ADHD often make poor financial decisions because of impulsiveness. Impulse spending or shopping gives a person with ADHD a feeling of instant gratification, which can potentially lead to debt and financial struggles. Impulse shopping is just one example out of hundreds.
When discussing ADHD symptoms, it is important to note that everyone will experience forgetfulness or drift off into a daydream from time to time or quite possibly make a "not so responsible" purchase, which is normal. These infrequent experiences don't constitute an ADHD diagnosis, and no, not everyone "has a little ADHD." In contrast, those diagnosed with ADHD consistently exhibit these behaviors and are often intensified, making tasks often impossible to complete and daily responsibilities challenging to achieve.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed in childhood and will typically continue through adulthood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, adults aged 18 to 44 years with a current diagnosis of ADHD are 4.4% in the US.
Although the disorder is usually diagnosed in childhood, it doesn't mean that adults can't get a diagnosis. Also, there is not a blanket diagnosis for ADHD. Currently, ADHD is categorized into three major types and include:
ADHD, inattentive/distractibility presentation
ADHD, impulsive/hyperactivity presentation
ADHD, combined presentation
I have been diagnosed with "combined type" ADHD, which means that I present with both inattentive and hyperactivity. No specific type is worse than the other. Each presentation has there own distinct challenges.
Three major types of ADHD are:
How is ADHD Diagnosed and Treated?
A licensed healthcare provider can diagnose ADHD by conducting an assessment by asking a series of questions, through observation, and by collecting family medical history (Genetic characteristics seem to be passed down). To learn more about diagnostic process, click here.
Treating ADHD is not a "one size fits all" for those diagnosed with the disorder. Once diagnosed with ADHD, the person will work with the physician to create a care plan tailored to their specific needs. According to the Mayo Clinic, the typical treatment for adult ADHD is a combination of medication, education, cognitive behavioral therapy, and skills training. Click here to learn more about different ADHD treatment plans, and stay tuned. Future blog discussions will provide additional information on ADHD treatment.
Contact a licensed healthcare professional if you have concerns or questions about ADHD. There are several resources available to help navigate your ADHD diagnosis. One that I find helpful is the CHADD - Children, and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and can be accessed here: National Resource Center ADHDexternal icon. The website has links to information for people with ADHD and their families.
What's coming up next?
This discussion provided a high-level ADHD overview. The upcoming discussion will take a deeper dive into the symptoms of ADHD and will provide helpful resources and tips.
I hope you continue on this journey with me and learn something new along the way!
Feel free to leave a comment, and THANK YOU for joining my journey.
Mayo Clinic (2019). Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350883
CDC (2021). Treatment of ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/treatment.html