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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD in Adults

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Work-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD are more likely to:

  • Change employers frequently and perform poorly.
  • Have less job satisfaction and fewer occupational achievements, independent of psychiatric status.

Social-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD are more likely to:

  • Have a lower socioeconomic status
  • Have driving violations such as being cited for speeding, having their license suspended, and being involved in more crashes
  • Rate themselves and others as using poorer driving habits
  • Use illegal substances more frequently
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Self-report psychological maladjustment more often

Relationship-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD are more likely to:

  • Have more marital problems and multiple marriages
  • Have higher incidence of separation and divorce

Much of this functional impairment diminishes with remission of the disorder and can be mitigated by appropriate treatment.

How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed?

While researchers may disagree about age of childhood onset in diagnosing adult ADHD, all agree that ADHD is not an adult-onset disorder and that symptoms must begin in childhood. An assessment of ADHD symptoms and behavior from childhood may include any or all of the following:

  • A questionnaire to determine if the adult had ADHD in childhood.
  • School report cards, if available, to look for comments about behavior problems, poor focus, lack of effort, or underachievement relative to the student's potential.
  • Discussion with the parents to determine any symptoms during childhood.
  • A complete history from the adult with the symptoms. He or she may self report symptoms in childhood.

The developmental history would be consistent with ADHD, including evidence of problems with peers, other delays such as bed wetting, school failure, suspensions, or special interventions such as sitting in front of the class.

A family history of ADHD may also be informative, given the strong genetic component of the disorder.

Other examinations may also be performed, including:

  • A physical exam to rule out medical or neurological illness
  • Blood tests
  • Psychological testing

Medications to Treat Adult ADHD

In the past, the first treatment typically offered to adults with ADHD has been stimulant drugs. Studies show that approximately two thirds of adults with ADHD who are given these medications show significant improvement in ADHD symptoms. Examples of stimulant medications that may be used in adults include Adderall XR, Concerta, Focalin XR, QuillivantXR, and Vyvanse.

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