More Than Distracted
It is estimated that roughly 8 to 10 million adult Americans have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). About half of this population is not officially diagnosed. Although often viewed as only a childhood disorder, most people affected by the condition do not outgrow it.
Severe symptoms appear at home, at work and in social settings and get in the way of daily life. They usually include:
• Trouble coping with stress
• Hot temper
• Mood swings
• Trouble concentrating
• Difficulty completing tasks
• Chronic disorganization
• Poor relationships
ADHD is a neurobiological condition, related to the inadequate circulation of certain brain chemicals, but the resulting behavior can be judged as willful, rude and aggressive.
The ADHD brain is chemically under-stimulated and seeks ways to spice up life, often through addictive behaviors such as alcohol, drugs or compulsive shopping. The ADHD population has higher rates of divorce, traffic accidents and unemployment than the general population. Prison populations reflect how untreated ADHD can damage individuals. It appears, along with specific learning disabilities, in up to 60 percent of inmates.
ADHD rarely occurs by itself. It can be intertwined with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and bipolar disorder, all of which make diagnosis and treatment tricky.
Treatment may involve drugs. Discussions about the effectiveness of ADHD medications have roused loyalties and anecdotal evidence on all sides of the controversy. While there are many effective drugs, finding the right individual drug and dosage is a matter of trial and error in the hands of an experienced clinician. Eventually researchers will have enough evidence-based research to guide patients to their best pharmaceutical options.
Adults with ADHD have many treatment options. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people understand how their thoughts and feelings influence their behavior. With a trained professional, adults can override the negative effects of their ingrained attitudes. Coaching helps adults reframe their issues and create realistic action plans.
Other treatments include changes in nutrition, improvement in sleep hygiene and brain training, especially through music therapy.
Accurate diagnosis, education, and an adult’s willingness to build on his own strengths can change the outcome, no matter the degree of ADHD.