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Adult ADHD

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Apr 26th, 2016


Six to seven percent of children have ADHD – or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And these kids are growing up and not growing out of their ADHD.

Consulting Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Adrian says about 4-5 percent of the adult population has ADHD and the bulk are undiagnosed and untreated. He jokes, “why do you think there are so many coffee shops on every corner?” Caffeine is a stimulant and stimulants help with ADHD.

ADHD is composed  of three parts: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. You do not have to have all three. In fact, many children with ADHD grow out of the hyperactivity part and then the inattention part dominates the picture. ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part that is in charge of ‘executive function.’ Executive function refers to several things including organizing, planning and emotional control. And Dr. Adrian explains adults with ADHD do not have a problem with focus, they have a problem shifting focus. So for adults with ADHD, interpersonal relationships can be a real challenge.

Dr. Adrian says what often happens is an adult with ADHD has trouble staying focused on what their partner might be saying because they’re constantly shifting their focus to the next thought that pops into their head. Their partner experiences this inattention as not being heard or listened to. Adults with ADHD also struggle with putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. These characteristics can be very damaging in relationships.

In the workplace, adults with ADHD can also struggle because they have difficulty organizing, planning and sequencing. For example, Dr. Adrian says an adult with ADHD may make an appointment with someone but get the time wrong, or they may get so wrapped up in one project they forget about a scheduled meeting.

However, Dr. Adrian says there are good treatment options for adults with ADHD. Dr. Adrian says the first line of medications used are stimulants. He says there is a 70-80 percent response rate. He says stimulants in the treatment of ADHD are “the closest thing to pharmacological magic” he gets to use in his practice. For example, if an adult with ADHD has the right dosage and right medication for about 3 months, that’s when their partner starts to say things like “you’re a much better listener now, I feel much more connected to you.” The other big part of ADHD treatment in adults is skills development. These adults need to learn skills that can help them to better organize their lives and manage their workload like using a digital watch that has reminders or using their smartphone alarm to tell them to move on to the next task.

The ADHD brain is an amazing thing, says Dr. Adrian. These people are highly creative and very interesting. He suggests some of the biggest gifts to humanity have likely been designed by an ADHD brain.

For more information on adult ADHD, Dr. Adrian suggests talking to your family doctor about an assessment and referral. He also suggests reading this book and this book.

For more information on ADHD you can also visit this site.





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