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ADHD in Adulthood

Updated on October 10, 2012

Adult ADHD, when undiagnosed, can be frustrating to the person suffering from this disorder and their family too. ADHD in adults is often overlooked because the common perception is that it is a childhood disorder. The truth is, there is no magic age at which it ADHD just vanishes from a person's life. It doesn't disappear at age 18 because you aren't a child anymore. The reason people believe they “outgrow” ADHD is really because they've just learned to manage their symptoms to the point where they aren't as severe. For some people though, this just isn't the reality. It's even more paradoxical when the person doesn't even know there is a disorder behind all the madness.

Know Someone With ADHD?

ADHD affects executive function in the brain, making tasks like planning, organizing, and time management difficult. Not everyone who has ADHD has the same exact symptoms and they vary from person to person. Sometimes spouses get so frustrated over some of the behaviors of their mate that they actually leave the relationship. It's unfortunate because usually these frustrating behaviors are symptoms that can be managed with help and a little effort.

If your spouse has absolutely no concept of time and never comes home when they say they will because “they lost track of time”, this could be a symptom of ADHD and not blatant disregard for your feelings. If you have to help your spouse find their keys over 75 times in a 24 hour period, along with their eyeglasses, pens, lighters, and cell phones, there is a possibility they have ADHD. Maybe you are tired of your spouse forgetting half the groceries on the list because they forgot the list at home. If so, that could be a symptom of ADHD. If you think your spouse doesn't pay attention to anything you say, leaves messes everywhere they go, or never finishes anything they start, it could be ADHD.

Treatment for ADHD

The good news is that being aware that there is “something” causing the problem is relief enough for some people because it proves they're not married to an insensitive monster that is making their life utter hell on purpose. There are also numerous ways to manage the symptoms of ADHD yourself, if you have it. Spouses can also be aware of weak areas and help out by making subtle changes to make life easier on the person with ADHD. Plenty of medication also exists now that can help manage or reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Medications are actually only part of symptom management and alieviate negative symptoms so that the person with ADHD can modify their behavior. Medication paired with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in the treatment of ADHD.

Norepinephrine and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters in the brain that are directly related to executive function. The reason the stimulants are helpful in reducing the symptoms of ADHD is that they make these neurotransmitters more available, therefore improving activity and communication in those parts of the brain which operate on dopamine and norepinephrine Methylphenidate and Amphetamines are two stimulant medications commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. A non-stimulant medication used to treat ADHD is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. All this means is that a different neurotransmitter is being targeted.

Finding the right medication and dosage is sometimes a long journey since everyone reacts so differently to many of the medications used to treat ADHD. It oftentimes feels like a guessing game as to whether you've got the right combination. Doctors often try the stimulant class of medications first and if none of those seem to work effectively to reduce symptoms, they will then move onto to try the non-stimulant medication. Sometimes ADHD medication works best in combination with an antidepressant.

ADHD in Adulthood Isn't a Death Sentence

Whatever the case, being diagnosed with ADHD isn't a death sentence. There are actually a large number of successful executives and professionals that have learned to cope with their symptoms and lead a very fulfilling and productive life. The best thing you can do is recognize your areas of weakness and work to improve them. Make a conscientious effort to change your behaviors in order to be more productive. With ADHD motivation is a key ingredient in success. Keep yourself motivated on whatever the task at hand is and you'll find it easier to stick to it.

Tips for Coping With ADHD

Some people who have ADHD have problems cleaning. It is almost like they pick something up that doesn't belong in the room, say a sock in the floor, and on the way to putting it in its place, they get distracted and set it down to pick something else up. The cycle usually continues and everything just gets shifted around and never really put away. One way to solve this problem when cleaning is have an empty laundry basket in the room with you and throw everything that doesn't belong in the room into the basket. Don't worry about putting it away until the rest of the room is clean and you've moved to the next room. As you are cleaning the next room, glance in the basket and see if there is anything that belongs in the room you are in before moving onto the next.

Organize your belongings where it makes sense to you and you'll be able to find things easier. If hanging your keys by the door doesn't work for your ADHD brain then figure out what does. Find a place that you usually look first when you misplace the object and create a space for it. Other people living in your home can adjust to the way you organize your surroundings better than you can adjust to a system that doesn't make sense. You'll find once you organize in a way that makes sense to you that you will continue to stay organized because the system “works” for you.

Take frequent breaks and try not to hyperfocus on anything too long. A good way to avoid hyperfocusing is to set an egg timer and stop what you are doing when it goes off. Many people with ADHD have problems concentrating and focusing but they also have the uncanny ability to hyperfocus for hours and hours on something that they really enjoy. If you have other responsibilities, set an egg timer to remind yourself that your time is up.

There are definitely other ways to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. A good person to contact would be an ADD Coach who can help you set realistic goals and coach you in ways to improve your functioning. It is also good to remember that ADHD has other disorders that co-exist with it such as anxiety, and depression. Sometimes these issues have to be treated at the same time in order for the ADHD treatment to be effective.


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    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 5 years ago from Texas

      Good point...I agree

    • Hub Llama profile image

      Hub Llama 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      The clothes basket tip is a good one. It also helps keeping you from noticing things in other rooms that you end up doing instead of what you meant to be doing.

      It is important to distinguish between forgetfulness and distraction though when looking at ADHD symptoms.