It used to be that ADHD was a condition associated with the young. You probably remember kids like this from your school days: The one who has trouble paying attention in class, falls off his chair (ADHD is more common in boys), fidgets, is hyperactive, disorganized, impulsive and unruly. They’ll grow out of it. They’ll calm down and change. That's what we all thought.
But that’s not altogether true.
ADHD can persist, following you into adulthood. And it usually does.
About five percent of U.S. adults have ADHD. That number might be much higher, but since few adults get diagnosed or treated for it, we’ll never know. Many people don’t even know they have it - all they do know is that every day can be a challenge in getting things done and following through with tasks. They may write those off to common age-related memory lapses, or assume their plates are just too overloaded and blame multitasking. And many times, ADHD can be confused with the symptoms of other conditions, particularly anxiety and mood disorders.
Though the symptoms of ADHD can change in severity and character and people can learn to adjust and cope, ADHD doesn’t go away just because you’re a grownup.
Most people do not outgrow it, says Dr. Russell A. Barkley, author of “ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says.” In a New York Times blog, Barkley says that ADHD is likely to persist into adulthood, especially if you’ve had severe symptoms as a child, or if you’ve suffered from depression or other forms of mental illnesses along with the ADHD.
There is no one test that can definitely diagnose ADHD – but, there are classic symptoms. And while it’s somewhat normal for all of us to have some of these behaviors (who hasn’t felt the compulsion to fidget, or had the impulse to do some retail therapy?), it’s the person with more severe symptoms that falls into the ADHD category – especially when it interferes with the quality of their life, their job or their self-esteem.
Think you might have adult ADHD? See if any of these sound familiar:
- You have trouble following directions
- You find it difficult to retain information
- You can’t concentrate
- It’s a challenge to finish work on time
- You're impulsive
- You’re disorganized
- You have problems prioritizing tasks, and following through
- You often feel restless or move around a lot
- Your tolerance for frustration is low
- You have trouble coping with stress
- You have a “hot” temper
Whether it's caused by genes, the environment (lead exposure as a child is a risk factor), or problems with the development of your central nervous system, ADHD is treatable – though not curable - through medication, education, learning new skills and psychological counseling, says the Mayo Clinic.
A recent study finds that mindfulness meditation can be an effective complementary approach to add to your arsenal of ADHD treatment. It certainly can’t help you if you’d rather not take medications like Strattera or Vyvanse, and are looking for something a bit more natural and mellow.