By: Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW
Up until the mid 1980's, it was widely believed by physicians and psychologists that ADHD was outgrown by the time a child hit adolescence.
Though many clinicians still hold on to this belief, it is now accepted by many in the medical community that childhood ADHD does indeed continue into adulthood. As a matter of fact, the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, describes just that.
Hyper Henry Hawkins in 4th grade, who was unable to sit still in Mrs. Jones' homeroom, became Mr. Hawkins, who at age 35, is unable to sit through business meetings. His legs kick under the table while his eyes dart around at the different posters on the wall. The doodles on his notepaper keep his fingers busy. And...he doesn't hear a word the presenter is saying.
Yes, ADHD is alive and well, living in adult bodies.
It is estimated that between 5-7%- or more- of all children suffer from attention deficit disorder. But what happens when these children grow up? Some are lucky enough to have learned to compensate for their poor attention span, impulsivity and distractibility by finding a good career match. Others married spouses who have been able to help structure their home lives.
And yet others are still struggling, trying to figure out why they cannot seem to work up to their potential. Worse, many adults with undiagnosed ADHD find themselves living a life of shame, poor self esteem, and worse.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I MIGHT HAVE ADHD?
All adults have some symptoms of ADHD. Some of these are:
Difficulty staying on task
Having many projects going on at one time and rarely completing any of them
Difficulty falling asleep and difficulty waking up ...but when an adult has a significant amount of symptoms that impair his daily living, then he may indeed have attention deficit disorder.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE MANY ADHD SYMPTOMS?
Read, read...and read some more. ADHD can mimic other disorders, like depression, anxiety, and some medical problems like hypothyroidism. And ADHD can co-exist with other disorders. If after your reading you still wonder if you may, indeed, have ADHD, then you may want to consider going for an evaluation.
WHO SHOULD I GO TO FOR AN EVALUATION?
First, check with your medical doctor to make sure you aren't having ADHD symptoms due to a medical problem. Talk to him/her about the possibility of ADHD. Chances are, he may not know enough about it to offer a diagnosis. Therefore, consider going to a mental health clinician who has done extensive work with adult ADHD.
HOW DO I FIND AN ADHD EXPERT?
There are two major organizations that focus on ADHD.
National ADDA (National Attention Deficit Disorder Assoc.) can help you get the information you need. Their focus is on supporting and educating young adults, adults and families with ADHD.
CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) is another excellent resource. Both organizations can point you in the right direction for helping you find an ADHD specialist. Also, consider contacting your closest teaching hospital and see if they have an ADHD clinic. If not, check with their department of psychology or psychiatry for names of clinicians in your area.
There is also a list of ADD clinicians at www.addconsults.com
OK, I'VE BEEN DIAGNOSED. NOW WHAT?
Find a support group! Read some more about this disorder! ADHD is certainly not a death sentence. Treatment can be very successful. Some people go through a period of sadness, even depression, thinking about the "lost years" of not knowing what it was that stopped them from moving ahead in life. Others are ecstatic that they now have the answer to what had been a roadblock for them.
For many, short term counseling is very helpful in putting things in perspective. One may need to go through a process of grieving, even, to get to the point of then moving ahead.
ADHD Coaching, too, is a wonderful way to help an ADHD adult get on track with their daily lives.
Many benefit from medications that help a person to attend, concentrate, and stay focused. Many of my clients, once treated for their ADHD, are astounded that they can read an entire book for the first time in their lives.
For all the Hyper Henrys in this world, there is hope!
Terry Matlen, ACSW
About the Author
Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW is a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Birmingham, MI, specializing in AD/HD. She is also the author of "Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD" and is the director of ADD Consults at www.addconsults.com and myADDstore at www.myADDstore.com . Terry serves on the board of directors for ADDA Assoc (ADDA), and is past coordinator of the E. Oakland County Chapter CHADD chapter. A popular presenter at local and national conferences, Terry has a special interest in women with AD/HD and parenting AD/HD children when one or both parents also have AD/HD. Terry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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