You probably know attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed in children. But that doesn’t mean it’s limited to childhood. In fact, 5% of adults have ADHD.


Board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Kevin Joseph, DNP, PMHNP-BC, at Insight Psychiatric Services works with many adults struggling with ADHD. He helps them understand how the disorder causes challenges and provides treatments supporting their ability to overcome ADHD and enjoy life.


Let’s explore the facts about adult ADHD.


Fact or fiction: ADHD doesn’t begin in adulthood


That’s a fact. ADHD doesn’t begin in adulthood, but that doesn’t rule out adult ADHD.


ADHD arises from biological differences in the way the brain develops early in life. Some brain areas are smaller than typical, certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) are diminished, and there are fewer nerve connections.


By definition, some signs of ADHD must appear before the age of 12. But ADHD is a developmental disability, which means it begins in childhood, isn’t curable, and lasts a lifetime.


As a result, you may not be diagnosed until your adult years or you could be diagnosed as a child and still face ADHD challenges as an adult.


Many children and teens with ADHD make great progress with treatment and enter adulthood better equipped to manage their challenges. But an estimated two-thirds of those diagnosed in early childhood continue to struggle with ADHD throughout their adult years.


Fact or fiction: ADHD is less severe in adults than children


That’s fiction. No matter your age, you’re only diagnosed with ADHD when you have frequent symptoms that significantly affect your success at work, school, and/or home. ADHD is no less severe in adults than children.


Fact or fiction: Adult ADHD causes different symptoms


This is fiction. The diagnostic criteria for ADHD are the same for children and adults.


When diagnosing ADHD, we use one list of symptoms. People of all ages must exhibit a certain number of symptoms from the list.


For example, children and adults with ADHD struggle to pay attention and they may talk a lot, interrupt conversations, forget to begin or complete tasks, and have a hard time controlling their emotions.


So why do people often say that adults have different symptoms? Because the core symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity) are often expressed differently in adults. Impulsivity in children may cause sudden verbal outbursts, while adults may engage in risky behaviors such as reckless spending.


Hyperactivity in children may appear as fidgeting at their desk in the classroom or getting up from their desk when they shouldn’t.


Adults may internalize hyperactivity and have symptoms like restlessness and racing thoughts. Or adult hyperactivity may have more subtle outlets like discreetly tapping your foot during a business meeting.


Fact or fiction: Medication is the only treatment for adult ADHD


Definitely fiction. Medications make a dramatic difference for many people with ADHD. They’re often recommended as the first line of treatment because medications improve attention and control hyperactivity by balancing brain chemicals. But they’re not the only option.


Talk therapy is just as important for most people with ADHD and may be especially beneficial for adults who have lived for years trying to cope with challenges they didn’t really understand.


Therapy gives you insight into the effect of ADHD on your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. During therapy we can teach skills and strategies to improve your ADHD challenges, such as difficulty with planning and staying organized or learning to build and maintain relationships.


Whether you wonder if you might have ADHD or you’re already diagnosed and want to start treatment, we can help. Call us at Insight Psychiatric Services in Sunrise, Florida, or request an appointment online today.

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