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Vail Daily column: Adult ADHD: Do you have any symptoms?

Dean Pappas
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

Oct. 16-22 is designated national ADHD awareness week. How ADHD affects adults is our major focus.

ADHD is associated primarily with children because of media focus on school, and because of the controversy regarding the use of medications (usually Ritalin). It is vital that adults realize how ADHD may be a part of their own lives.

Most adults suspect that they have ADHD after their child is diagnosed, or after hearing about the symptoms in the media. The adult will then realize, “Aha, this is what I have been struggling with all along.”



Nearly all children diagnosed with ADHD continue to show symptoms in adulthood. But not all adults with ADHD symptoms are diagnosed as children. Since hyperactivity is not required for a diagnosis, children and adolescents who are not hyperactive tend to be mislabeled as shy, learning disabled, clumsy, depressed, or socially awkward. More males are diagnosed with ADHD as children than female because female children appear less hyperactive than their male counterparts. Females are therefore more likely to be diagnosed as adults.

Adult ADHD symptoms to look for (four or five or more of the following):

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• Find it difficult to focus on a task (mind is racing or constantly “somewhere else”)

• Get easily bored (something else becomes more interesting).

• Miss details or cannot follow instructions.



• Highly impatient (can’t wait in line, unwilling to delay gratification … need it now!).

• Frequently feeling restless inside (edgy, need to be constantly busy).

• Frequently lose or misplace items (in fact, almost always).

• Frequently late.

• Frequent job changes and moving residences.

• Feeling of underachievement (“I know I can do better”).

• Difficulty with social skills (often put down by others, inappropriate behavior at work or socially, struggling with relationships).

• Addictive behaviors (smoking, gambling, drugs or alcohol, work, sex, etc.).

• Clumsy or accident-prone .

• High risk taker.

• impulsive (change direction at the drop of a hat).

• Poor listener (nonstop talker, blurt out when speaking, interrupt others frequently).

• Poor memory (can’t remember names, events, what was said or done).

• Procrastinate (possibly causing the loss of a job).

• Poor sense of time (where did the time go?).

• Poor use of time (ineffective time management).

• Low self-esteem.

• Easy to anger (often rages or expresses frustration).

• Frequently feels as if it is in “a fog.”

• Unable to sit comfortably with quiet tasks.

ADHD is neurological (genetic) and environmental (learned behaviors or trauma). Productive adults never “outgrow” the condition but learn to adapt or cope with the symptoms through a combination of coaching, counseling, training, and self-acceptance (think Evel Knievel or Robin Williams).

Assessment

Adults who suspect they have ADHD should be evaluated by a mental health professional who will look at both history and current symptoms. The professional can look for overlapping diagnoses of depression, anxiety or other disorders.

A diagnosis can be overwhelming. Newly diagnosed adults find themselves stepping into a world full of unknowns that requires a total retooling of ways of acting and thinking. A diagnosis can also be liberating. “The problem” is now recognized, and the adult realizes that “I can get on with my life.”

Treatment

Medications such as Ritalin, Strattera and other stimulants are used to manage hyperactivity and increase focus. While these drugs show some effectiveness, the side effects can be undesirable and individuals stop taking them. Medications do not cure ADHD, but assist in controlling symptoms.

Lifestyle changes through counseling, coaching or therapy are effective treatments for adults. It is important that the adult’s family and friends become aware of the struggles the ADHD adult faces and assist in the treatment process.

Adult ADHD coaching is an increasingly popular means of treatment. Coaching offers a practical form of support that assists in teaching skills that improve coping. Coaching can take place over the telephone, Skype, or in person.

A support group can be great source of information and provides a place for sharing and encouragement. A free adult ADD/ADHD support group meets in Glenwood Springs twice a month.

Contact Dean Pappas, M.F.A., M.A., about the support group, coaching, counseling or a screening exam. Call 970-355-4151 or email dean@solutionsfordailyliving.net.


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