The Impact of ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was traditionally thought to just affect children and teenagers. Now it is recognised that most people with ADHD do not ‘grow out of it’ and it usually continues into adulthood. ADHD in adults affects males and females probably in equal numbers yet it is especially under recognised in women as it is thought of as being a disorder mostly suffered by boys. Men and women with ADHD experience a sobering array of adverse outcomes throughout their life. Treatment is highly effective, yet only a minority of those affected ever obtain a diagnosis and treatment. It is currently thought that just 1 in 20 people with adult ADHD in the UK are receiving treatment for this.
Patients with ADHD often struggle in their personal and domestic life and may also encounter other difficulties. Patients with ADHD twice as likely to be divorced and are more likely to have been arrested. ADHD is also associated with an increase in road traffic accidents. It is a highly treatable condition, yet is commonly confused with other mental health disorders or not diagnosed at all.
Many people only present for the first time in adulthood and have never been assessed or treated as a child. Life events such as higher education, a promotion or having children can lead to additional stress and cause ADHD symptoms to no longer be something that are hidden.
The three types of ADHD symptoms
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder presenting with three types of symptoms.
Firstly, attention deficit. This badly named as it is not an absence of the ability to concentration but a failure to regulate it. This means that someone with ADHD can focus on topics if they are interested, but they are prone to getting bored quickly and find it almost impossible to focus on tasks that are tedious, repetitive or boring – unless under last minute pressure.
The secondly group of symptoms are those of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Hyperactivity is also a misleading symptom as adults may be mentally restless and feel that they never switch off – but are not always physically restless or fidgety (although they may have been so as a child). Fidgeting may not be as obvious as tapping a leg up and down, but may be more subtle such as fiddling with jewellery or always wanting something to handle with such as a drink or cigarette or using a fidget toy. Impulsivity involves doing things or saying things without thinking. Actions may involve risk taking, dangerous or illegal activity but may just present as the tendency to overspend or butt in to conversations - or tackling work or studies without planning or thinking things through first.
Thirdly patients with ADHD are prone to being emotionally over reactive. Patients with ADHD are easily irritated or angered. Family / partners may describe that they are moody and they may feel that they have to ‘tread on eggshells’ around them. Their mood may change quickly but this mood may not last long and, for some people, they may feel that their mood is like a rollercoaster and can change dramatically from feeling happy to sad to angry to irritated a number of times a day, often for no particular reason or for some minor upset.
Dr Sally Cubbin
Dr Sally Cubbin is a highly qualified, experienced, sensitive and caring Consultant Psychiatrist with special expertise in the diagnosis and management of adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adults).
Mental health problems associated with ADHD
ADHD can present with symptoms of other mental health disorders and these are more likely to be diagnosed by GPs and health care professionals. The underlying problem of ADHD is often missed and yet this may be fuelling more commonly diagnosed problems such as anxiety, depression and sleep problems.
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)
Some patients with ADHD are emotionally sensitive and reaction. You may have read about the concept of ‘Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD), and note that you are also overly sensitive which commonly leads to moodiness or arguments and can put a strain on relationships.
Physical health problems associated with ADHD
Obesity - There is a clear relationship between ADHD and obesity, both in children and in adults. Binge eating may occur – a sign of impulsivity. Unhealthy eating habits can result from poor planning of shopping and poor motivation to prepare healthy food.