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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD in Adults

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most well-recognized childhood developmental problems. This condition is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It is now known that these symptoms continue into adulthood for about 60% of children with ADHD. That translates into 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults. However, few adults are identified or treated for adult ADHD.    

 

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD are not known with certainty. Experts do know that ADHD has a strong genetic component. In addition, they think that genes that control the levels of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters seem to be different in those with ADHD. In some cases, though, there is no genetic link to ADHD, but other common behaviors,  such as smoking or drinking during pregnancy, as well as other obstetrical complications have been linked to ADHD in children. Babies with low...

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ADHD in Adults

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks, or completing work within time limits. If these difficulties are not managed appropriately, they can cause associated behavioral, emotional, social, vocational, and academic problems.

Adult ADHD Statistics

  • ADHD afflicts approximately 3% to 10% of school-aged children and an estimated 60% of those will continue to have symptoms that affect their functioning as adults.
  • Prevalence rates for ADHD in adults are not as well determined as rates for children, but fall in the 4% to 5% range.
  • ADHD affects males at higher rate than females in childhood, but this ratio seems to even out by adulthood.

 

Common Behaviors and Problems of Adult ADHD

The following behaviors and problems may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of related adjustment difficulties:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic boredom
  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating when reading
  • Difficulty controlling anger
  • Employment problems
  • Impulsiveness
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Poor organization skills
  • Procrastination
  • Relationship problems
  • Substance abuse or addiction

These behaviors may be mild to severe and can vary with the situation or be present all of the time. Some adults with ADHD may be able to concentrate if they are interested in or excited about what they are doing. Others may have difficulty focusing under any circumstances. Some adults look for stimulation, but others avoid it. In addition, adults with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial, or they can be overly social, going from one relationship to the next.

School-Related Impairments Linked to Adult ADHD

Adults with ADHD may have:

  • Had a history of poorer educational performance and been underachievers
  • Had more frequent school disciplinary actions
  • Had to repeat a grade
  • Dropped out of school more often

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

 

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