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Understanding ADHD (or ADD) in Adults
Most people equate the brain disorder ADHD with young hyperactive children. However, ADHD in adults is more common than one might think, with about 4% struggling with the disorder in adulthood.
ADHD is difficult to live with no matter what age the person is. For adults with ADHD having ADHD can produce many adverse effects, including co-occurring mental health and substance use issues. Keep reading to learn more about adult ADHD.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect people of all ages but is usually diagnosed in school-aged children. About half of these childhood ADHD cases resolve over time, while the others continue into adulthood. Also, some kids that never received the diagnosis may find symptoms become more pronounced in later years. They may visit a doctor to discuss the symptoms, which results in an ADHD diagnosis as an adult.
The main features of ADHD include pronounced inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When symptoms begin to interfere with daily functioning, treatment is often warranted. Treatment for adult ADHD includes therapy and medication.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
Adults with ADHD grapple with symptoms that affect their ability to perform their jobs. Symptoms of adult ADHD include:
- Trouble staying on task.
- Being disorganized.
- Poor time management skills.
- Mood swings.
- Often late for appointments or meetings.
- Chronic boredom.
- Easily frustrated.
- Has trouble controlling their temper.
- Low stress tolerance.
- Poor listening skills.
- Substance use.
ADHD is further defined as being one of three subtypes:
- Predominantly inattentive type ADHD
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD
- Combined type ADHD
ADHD and Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Adults living with ADHD also tend to struggle with co-occurring mental health challenges. The most common of these co-occurring disorders include:
- ADHD and anxiety. ADHD and anxiety are often linked. According to ADAA, about 50% of adults with ADHD also struggle with anxiety disorder. Having ADHD makes life more stressful. It causes a person to feel worried and overwhelmed on a daily basis, which can develop into an anxiety disorder.
- ADHD and depression. About one-third of adults with ADHD also suffer from depression. For some people, the depression co-occurred with the ADHD from the start. For others, the depression developed as a result of the ADHD.
- ADHD and substance abuse. A recent study out of Canada reports that about 50% of adults with ADHD have had a substance use disorder.
ADHD and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
Young adults with ADHD are about 69% more likely to have or had a substance use disorder. A dual diagnosis exists when there is both a mental health disorder, such as ADHD, and a co-occurring substance use disorder. In many instances, the person develops a substance use disorder in response to the mental health issue. They may begin to use alcohol as a means of self-medicating the symptoms.
When someone self-medicates a mental health disorder such as ADHD, they may find their tolerance increase. They are then likely to consume more of the substance to chase that initial calming effect. As they consume more, the possibility of developing addiction increases, too.
Adults with both ADHD and substance use disorder find they have only increased their suffering. The co-occurring disorders have the potential to cause serious disruption in daily functioning.
Living with ADHD
Some of the actions that can benefit adults with ADHD include:
- Regular exercise. Getting daily exercise can be very helpful for someone with ADHD. Exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, feel good chemicals. These brain chemicals can stimulate the executive functions, such as decision-making, mood, memory, and to control impulsivity.
- Managing stress levels. Adults with ADHD benefit from learning how to better manage stress levels. Such actions as practicing mindfulness, deep breathing techniques, and using guided imagery apps can be very effective.
- Using organization tools. Someone with ADHD often struggles to manage their daily obligations. They may forget about appointments and important dates. They may benefit from organizer apps, planners, or a daily to-do list. Keeping better track of these dates and meetings will reduce daily stress.
- Improve diet. A healthy diet can provide essential nutrition for optimum brain functioning. The diet should be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, seeds, nuts and legumes, whole grain breads and pastas, rice, and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Get better sleep. A lack of quality sleep can be a trigger for ADHD symptoms. Improve sleep quality by setting a routine sleep schedule so the sleep cycle can become consistent. Also, avoid caffeine later in the day, and put away smartphones an hour before bedtime.
Treatment for ADHD or Dual Diagnosis
No two ADHD diagnoses are the same. Some may only have ADHD, whereas others may have ADHD and anxiety, depression, bipolar, or substance addiction. The unique features will determine the treatment plan.
When a dual diagnosis is present, a residential treatment program is the correct level of care. These programs offer both psychiatric help and addiction treatment to help the person overcome both disorders.
Medical detox. When a substance use disorder co-occurs with the ADHD, you will need to first undergo the detox process.
Therapy. Using therapies such as CBT and DBT you are guided to change core behaviors that have led to the compulsive substance use.
Group therapy. Joining peers in recovery to discuss topics related to your own journey can be a source of support and comfort.
Medication. Stimulants such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Dexedrine, Concerta, or Ritalin may be prescribed for the ADHD. Some non-stimulant drugs include Intuniv, Kapvay, and Strattera.
12-Step program. The A.A. 12-step program provides a useful blueprint for achieving long-term sobriety.
Holistic. Controlling stress is vital. You will engage in holistic activities such as yoga and meditation to teach you important coping tools.
LifeSync Malibu Mental Health and Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center
LifeSync Malibu offers world-class residential mental health treatment for ADHD with or without co-occurring substance abuse. ADHD in adults is manageable, so reach out today and improve your quality of life. To gain the upper hand with ADHD, call us at (866) 491-4426.