Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Adults and ADHD/ADD
For many adult’s life can be a tricky balancing act between faith, family, work, and play. Unfortunately, for adults suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD the complications of everyday life can be further exacerbated but symptoms related to the disorder. Disorganization, frustration, forgetfulness, poor listening skills, etc., can hinder everything from work and career to both social and romantic relationships. Often when we hear the term ADHD or ADD our minds automatically travel to children, however, what often gets overlooked is that many adults suffer in similar ways to ADD and ADHD as children. A lot of adults experience a carryover effect of ADD or ADHD in adulthood even if they didn’t receive a formal diagnosis in childhood. It is not uncommon for children not to receive a formal diagnosis or a misdiagnosis as many symptoms related to ADHD or ADD can mimic other diagnosis. In the past most of children under academic performances or behavioral challenges were attributed to being a “healthy, rambunctious child”, or “he or she is just lazy, not wanting to do his or her schoolwork”. When children are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all when there are symptoms of ADHD or ADD a lot of the symptoms that were present in childhood will carry over into adulthood. Even if you were never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult.
Attention deficit disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often goes unrecognized throughout childhood. This was especially common in the past, when very few people were aware of ADD/ADHD. Instead of recognizing your symptoms and identifying the real issue, your family, teachers, or other parents may have labeled you a dreamer, lazy, a goof-off, a slacker, a troublemaker, or just a bad student. As children we were often able to compensate for the symptoms related to ADD and ADHD because of the limited responsibilities we were entrusted with. However, as we began to age and mature, individual responsibilities increased leading to more prominent symptom emergence, difficulty balancing responsibilities, organizing responsibilities, initiating and maintaining a career, balancing a relationship, etc. Having a properly balanced life can be difficult for anyone but if you have ADD/ADHD, it can feel almost impossible.
For many adults with ADD/ADHD staying focused and tuned in to life’s ongoing demands can be process that is not possible to fulfill. Persons with ADD/ADHD can become easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bounce from one activity to another, often without completing any of them or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADD/ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity—but they can be every bit as troublesome.
Symptoms of ADD include:
“Mind journeys”, fantasizing and or zoning out
Poor listening skills or difficulty staying focused on a topic
Constantly interrupting another person who is speaking
Difficulty completing tasks or starting and ending multiple tasks prior to completion
Tendency to overlook details
Easily absorbed in tasks that he or she finds interesting (this is a paradoxical effect called hyperfocus)
Unlike typical ADD symptoms which causes the suffer to start and abandon projects, those with hyperfocus symptoms can become so fixated on a project or topic of interests that they become oblivious to everything going on around them. This is especially true if the individual becomes engrossed in a tv show, a book, a current project that is a source of interest and they have lost track of time, does not fulfill other obligations such as cooking dinner, completing work assignments, late to pick up the children, etc. Adults with ADD/ADHD, also have a tendency to procrastinate, have poor organizational skills, maybe chronically late to work or other personal obligations, losing or misplacing things (keys, pens, etc.) missing deadlines, late for work or events, etc. Symptoms related to Adult ADHD and ADD can create emotional challenges as well, such as low self-esteem, feeling he or she is less than or not worthy of, easily frustrated and stressed, underachievement, difficulty staying focused and motivated, loss of temper, easily slighted, etc.
Symptoms of ADHD include:
Hyperactivity or restlessness
feelings of inner restlessness, agitation
Easily distracted or bored
Mind journey or flight of ideas
talking too much or excessively
starting and stopping multiple tasks prior to completion
Beth has been a case manager for a local hospitals behavioral health clinic for the past 8 months. All her life she has struggled with maintaining good organizational skills, completing her assignments in a timely manner, and overly fantasizing at work. Most of Beth’s childhood has consisted of fantasizing about romance and a better life making it difficult for her to concentrate on work obligations and other responsibilities. In fact, Beth fantasizes so much that she often loses track of time causing her to miss work deadlines or show up late for meetings. Beth has accepted that this is just one of her quirky characteristics. She has never been diagnosed with any emotional problems or mental health disorders so her fantasizing cannot really be a problem. As she gains more responsibilities at work her desk becomes more and more disorganized, papers everywhere, with clutter inside the drawers, and incomplete assignments thrown haphazardly on her desk. Gradually many of her coworkers have taken notice of her office, her desk, and her ability to become easily distracted. Beth’s supervisor even issued a written warning, instructing her to organize her desk and the client files by the end of the week. Does Beth’s symptoms suggest adult ADHD, adult ADD or is this just a part of Beth’s personality?
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