Monday, January 20, 2014

ADHD: Not Just for Kids

Teresa Dumpé, CRNP
     Hear the words attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the mind thinks of a child bouncing off the walls. While ADHD in children is widely recognized, adults who struggle with the condition receive far less attention.

The undetected
     Approximately 7.8 percent of school age children are diagnosed with ADHD. For some of these children, symptoms improve or resolve by adulthood, but a third-to-one-half of the adult population continue to struggle with the condition. While health experts estimate that 4.4 to 5.2 percent of the U.S. population has adult ADHD, many believe the number is higher due to a lack of consistent guidelines for diagnosing adult ADHD.

     “Adult ADHD can be very disruptive because it can have a social and professional impact,” explains nurse practitioner Teresa Dumpé, CRNP of Robinwood Internal Medicine. “Some adults find ways to compensate for the condition, but it still can make everyday tasks challenging.”

Signs of adult ADHD
     Thought to run in families, adults with ADHD may exhibit the same symptoms they did as children, but the hyperactivity is replaced by inattentiveness, restlessness and impulsivity. Indicators may include:
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Disorganization
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Unstable relationships
     Most of us experience symptoms similar to ADHD periodically, but when symptoms disrupt your social or professional life, it’s time to seek medical help, explains Teresa.

Reaching a diagnosis
     Reaching a diagnosis can be challenging because symptoms of adult ADHD and other mental health conditions can overlap and providers have no guidelines to diagnose and treat the condition. However, health care practitioners may work closely with psychiatrists for help with diagnosis and treatment.

     “Getting a diagnosis is so important. Adults with ADHD can be socially dysfunctional, struggle with substance abuse or lack career advancement,” says Teresa. “So many adults don’t understand why they’ve lost jobs in the past or continually lose interest in the jobs they hold.” This lack of understanding affects adults’ self-esteem and opportunity for a viable career.

Treating Adult ADHD
     The stigma of ADHD, the confusion of where to find help and the concern about using stimulant drugs prevent some people from getting evaluated and treated. The first place to start, recommends Teresa, is a conversation with your primary care provider. If ADHD is suspected, your health care provider may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in ADHD for assessment and treatment.

     ADHD treatment may include the prescription of stimulant or non-stimulant drugs and behavioral counseling. Adult ADHD can be successfully treated with non-stimulant medications which are non-habit forming.

     “A diagnosis of ADHD is really an opportunity for an adult to be more successful in life and improve their relationships,” says Teresa.

     Effective treatment of adult ADHD can be life-changing. If you or someone you know shows signs of ADHD, talk to your health care provider.

Sources: The American Academy of Family Physicians, Mayo Clinic, the Journal of American College Health.

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