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ADD & ADHD Health Center

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Aging and ADHD

ADHD isn't just for kids. Here's what it's like later in life.

When to See a Doctor

"Talk with your primary care doctor if you suspect you may ave ADHD and the symptoms are affecting your quality of life," says Paul Y. Takahashi, MD, a geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. Your primary care doctor may be able to evaluate you for ADHD or may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for additional testing.

As part of your evaluation, you'll be asked questions about your symptoms, whether they started in childhood, and how they're impacting your current life. Your doctor will investigate whether your symptoms could be due to something other than ADHD. He or she may do neuropsychological tests and a CT scan or MRI to check for signs of cognitive decline, says Lenard Adler, MD, professor of psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry and director of the Adult ADHD program at the New York University School of Medicine.

If possible, ask your spouse, adult child, or even your parent (if they're able) to go with you to your evaluation. "It's important to have someone who can help provide additional observations about the symptoms and impairments that have occurred over a long period of time," Goodman says.

Considering Treatments

Once you've been diagnosed with ADHD, your doctor may recommend medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Medications such as Adderall XR, Concerta, Quillivant XR, Focalin XR, Strattera, and Vyvanse are commonly used to treat ADHD in adults. Side effects of these drugs can include insomnia, jitteriness, decreased appetite, and weight loss. In addition, these medications can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to go up slightly.

Takahashi suggests weighing the potential benefits and risks of medication with your doctor. "The side effects from ADHD medications can be worse for older adults if they already have, for example, high blood pressure, heart disease, or problems with sleeping," he says. Also, be sure to let your doctor know if you are taking medications for other conditions, as they could interact with ADHD drugs.

A number of different types of psychotherapy are useful for treating ADHD in adults. Adler says cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can be quite helpful when used alone or in conjunction with medication. This type of therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns, solving problems, and developing skills to handle challenges.

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