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ADHD: Out of Focus

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

In the five decades of his life, Peter Gregory has been a geophysicist, a marketing manager for an auto dealership, a self-employed executive recruiter, and a coach for people with ADHD.

Gregory has taken pride in his openness to new ventures, but also knows it comes at a price. He changed careers because he got bored or burned out easily, he didn't get along with his co-workers, or he would enter into a project without a business plan.

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Two years ago, the now 45-year-old's troubles seemed to come to a head. He was going through a divorce, and his recruiting firm was in the process of closing down.

A few friends who were mental health professionals suggested he attend a seminar on ADHD. He did, and the experience motivated him to seek psychiatric help, take medication for the condition, take better care of himself, join an online forum for others like him, and learn as much as he can about the disorder through seminars and books.

"For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable being me," says Gregory. "I am now able to create a plan, and I'm capable of sticking to it. When I get offtrack, I can get back on easily."

The incidence of ADHD in adults is not as prevalent as it is in children, but studies suggest up to 5% of adults have the disorder, says Russell Barkley, PhD, professor of psychiatry for the Medical University of South Carolina.

In the workplace, he says people with ADHD tend to have lower productivity, are more tardy and delinquent with responsibilities, change jobs more often, and are fired three to four times more often than the average population.

The financial burden of the disorder to the workplace is yet to be determined, adds Barkley, saying such information is in the "cutting edge of research."

According to Children and Adults With Attention-Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), some warning signs for ADHD include:

  • Failing to give close attention to details or making careless mistakes at work
  • Fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming in seat
  • Having difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or fun activities
  • Leaving seat in situations where seating is expected
  • Not listening when spoken to directly
  • Feeling restless
  • Not following through on instructions and failing to finish work
  • Having difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Feeling "on the go" or "driven by a motor"
  • Avoiding, disliking, or reluctant to engage in work that requires sustained mental effort
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetful in daily duties

For people who think they might have ADHD, Barkley recommends these first steps of action:

  • Take a screening test online. "If you score high, there's an 80%-90% chance you have the disorder," says Barkley.
  • Visit a mental health care provider to confirm your results. Make sure the provider has experience working with people with ADHD.
  • Develop short-term goals, and share them with a friendly coworker or supervisor who can help you become more accountable to your goals.

Reviewed on March 09, 2006

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