PAYING ATTENTION to ADHD
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER IS NOT JUST A CHILDHOOD CONDITION
BY PETE ALFANO
Parents have learned they can’t always blame a sugar high when a child is fidgeting with their hands, cannot sit still, or is easily distracted from a task such as schoolwork or even watching TV. This behavior can indicate attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder, more popularly known as ADHD. Children as young as three have been diagnosed with the disorder, although the average age is seven.
But ADHD is not just a childhood affliction. Studies cited by Web MD show that as many as five percent of adults suffer from a form of the disorder, and only a small percentage know they even have it. Often the symptoms are present in childhood but were never diagnosed or deemed severe enough to seek medical or psychiatric attention.
So, while symptoms of ADHD may diminish with age, people don’t outgrow them entirely. There are several red flags for adults. Among them are difficulty multi-tasking and prioritizing, quick to anger, inability to complete a task, impulsiveness, procrastination, excessive talking, finishing another person’s sentences, fidgeting, forgetfulness, anxiety, disorganization, and mood swings.
Raise your hand if you admit to having one or more of these traits. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate you have ADHD. Keep in mind that having some of these symptoms might indicate other mental issues such as anxiety, depression, autism, bipolar disorder, sleep disorder, and hearing loss.
For adults, ADHD can impact their family life and impair their careers. Not finishing a project on time, inability to focus on tasks, and habitual lateness can have consequences ranging from not being considered for a raise or promotion to dismissal. Some aspects of ADHD, such as forgetfulness, cannot always be associated with aging either. And if you are the type who gets upset easily when the line isn’t moving fast enough at a grocery store, bank, or another venue, it may also be a sign of ADHD.
Medical science admits there has not been much research on ADHD in adults. The Centers for Disease Control cites sleep deprivation, stress, a poor diet, and a general lack of interest in anything as possible causes. ADHD shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can affect relationships and make day-to-day living difficult for adults and the people in their life.
Given how disruptive ADHD can be, seeking medical help is a priority. A primary care physician can evaluate a patient’s behavior and refer them to a clinic that specializes in treating the disorder. A preferred method of treatment is psychotherapy and education. But cognitive therapy is also supplemented by medications. Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine are three popular stimulants taken in tablet form. However, they should be taken only under medical supervision because they pose potentially serious side effects, including hallucinations, paranoia, confusion, hypertension, strokes, and cardiac arrhythmia. These drugs are also addictive if abused.
The risk-reward of taking medications like these will be worth it if it can improve a person’s mood, focus, and ability to interact better with family, friends, and at work. One thing should be clear, symptoms of ADHD should not be ignored. The disorder can be debilitating and negatively affect a person’s health and well-being.
Searching For An Answer Medical research into the causes and treatment of ADHD in adults continues on parallel tracks. Like almost everything else involving our health, scientists are looking at DNA and how our brains are wired for possible early detection of ADHD. Because most cases are diagnosed in children, a strong genetic component may enable doctors to diagnose the disorder and begin treatment earlier. There is no cure for ADHD. Thus, psychotherapy and medications will likely define treatment going forward.
Clinical studies are ongoing to determine whether new medications are more effective and have fewer side effects. Viloxazine, a non-stimulant, has shown positive results in children. Other newer drugs, such as Azstays (brand name), Centanafadine, a non-stimulant, and Mydayis, have shown positive results. Unfortunately, all these and others being tested in clinical trials are potentially addictive and must be administered under a doctor’s or psychiatrist’s care.