In the early 1970s, when children were given a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder), doctors might inform parents they expected the kids to age out of the disorder as they grew. Current medical wisdom has recognized there are many people who do not “grow out” of ADD and this has led to the term adult ADD. Adult ADD is not a new condition that occurs in adults, but is instead a condition continuing from childhood ADD, whether or it not it was formally diagnosed when a person was a child. This last part is essential, since a clear diagnosis of the condition must establish the person had ADD or ADHD in childhood.
Adult ADD is not a new disorder and it could just as easily be simply called ADD or ADHD. It is best described as a continuation of ADD symptoms in adults. These symptoms may express themselves in a slightly different way in adults than they do in children. Common symptoms of adult ADD include difficulty concentrating, quick alterations in mood, trouble keeping an even temper, and impulsive choices. Other symptoms like having trouble completing tasks, being unable to stay focused on a task, and having difficulty achieving relaxation may be present.
Life can be affected tremendously when a person has adult ADD. People may have a hard time holding down jobs or being successful in the work environment. Some people note challenges having successful relationships. One symptom many adults note is inability to keep on schedule so that they may be routinely late or may simply forget places they need to be or any type of meeting or gathering that requires their attendance. Failure to succeed or do what others seem to be able to do without thinking can be significantly damaging to self-esteem.
Diagnosis is complicated and can’t be made through one test. To get proper diagnosis, a person with suspected adult ADD must see a psychiatrist, psychologist or physician. If ADD was not diagnosed in childhood, doctors will ask about behaviors in childhood that could indicate its presence. They will also ask a variety of questions that help establish patterns recognizable as ADD and they ask patients to participate in some testing and surveys to see if these tests show a persistent pattern of suspected ADD. Doctors will want to rule out other disorders that might be causing these symptoms like bipolar disorder.
Once a person receives a diagnosis of adult ADD they usually have several treatment options. Many adults benefit from taking medication and working with a therapist because learning coping and management strategies can be just as important as taking meds. Medications prescribed are often the same as those prescribed to children and include drugs like Ritalin® and Adderall®.
Adult ADD is considered a disability and even with treatment, some people have need of modifications in their work settings to be successful. In the US, employers may legally be required to help provide some modifications to comply with the American with Disabilities Act. Many adults, though, are able to modify on their own successfully, especially when they use a combination of medication and therapy. They may not need to involve employers in any modifications, but they may have legal rights to do so.