Think you are displaying ADHD symptoms? Have they been disrupting your everyday life? Don’t know whether to seek help? Read this.
Maybe you took your child for an ADHD assessment and could relate to some (or many) of the symptoms the professional asked them about. Or, your friend recently got a diagnosis and you wonder if you have it too because the patterns seem familiar when they talk about it.
With regular activities in school, work, or personal lives, it is natural to have some not-so-great days where you don't feel like you can concentrate enough to even read. This might be because you need a break and would probably feel okay after. But if it feels like a persistent feeling that affects your daily life adversely, for example, you’re constantly late, have anger outbursts or are too energised to sit through a movie or finish a book but can hyperfocus on a video game for hours, these might be signaling ADHD.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that usually affects kids. However, it can go undiagnosed well into adulthood. There are many difficulties that you might face in many areas of life. The key point to identify whether you need to seek help with mental health issues is if your condition is affecting your personal, professional/academic or social life. These difficulties might look like forgetting things often, being easily distracted etc. that, in adults, can cause severe problems such as issues while driving, losing jobs because of “carelessness” or ending of relationships because of lack of emotional regulation.
While ADHD cannot be cured, it can be treated and made manageable to a great extent by making small changes in the way that we do things –– considering that an ADHD brain is wired differently.
The first step is to identify the existence of the disorder and get a comprehensive diagnosis post assessment. Though there is no single test for ADHD, your healthcare provider may give you a number of tests and observe your symptoms as part of an ADHD assessment.
One problem with ADHD diagnosis is misdiagnosis. ADHD, especially in adults, is prone to being underdiagnosed, over-diagnosed and misdiagnosed. It manifests differently in men and women, making it difficult to be identified in women for whom it is relatively uncommon. This may lead to a misdiagnosis since a lot of the symptoms can be overlapping with depression and anxiety or other such disorders. ADHD also has a stigma of being overdiagnosed, so many people may suffer in silence. So, it is important to seek professional help for ADHD and not self-diagnose.
Though self-diagnosis is not reliable, it might help to go through symptoms of ADHD, not as a conclusive assessment but to check whether you should seek further professional help. The fear of sounding like a hypochondriac is not a good enough reason since the odds are in your favour if you bring it up just as a question with your doctor. It might be a great help to just find out, instead of pondering over it, even if you or your child don't have it.
According to DSM-5 by APA (American Psychiatric Association), people with ADHD display a pattern of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness.
To find out when to seek help for ADHD, let’s take a closer look at these broad ADHD symptoms according to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The diagnostic criteria differs for different ages in the number of symptoms presented that are required for a diagnosis. Hence, it is important to note that this is just an outline of symptoms and is not to be taken as a full-fledged diagnosis.
- Has trouble giving close attention or makes careless mistakes with schoolwork or other activities
- Fails to hold attention on tasks
- Fails to follow through on instructions, frequently distracted and struggles to complete tasks
- Fails to hold attention while being spoken to
- Avoids tasks that require long period of mental effort
- Often forgetful and loses necessary things
- Easily distracted
Hyperactivity or Impulsivity
- Frequently fidgets or squirms
- Finds it difficult to stay in their seat and gets up unexpectedly
- Often displays restlessness
- Talks excessively or blurts answers
- Has trouble waiting their turn, leading to intruding others
ADHD in adults
ADHD often lasts into adulthood, though the symptoms become more manageable, especially when treated. The diagnostic criteria for people older than age 17 also require less symptoms. Comorbidity is also common in adults with ADHD, find out more on that here. Comorbidity is one of the varied reasons which make it complicated for adults to be correctly diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, many symptoms might overlap with other conditions, making the diagnosis prone to errors, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, autism, substance use or just a chaotic home or work environment. It becomes essential for medical professionals to conduct a full evaluation to point out any other potential conditions or any other factors that might be causing the symptoms to present like ADHD. For example, in some people, consumption of caffeine can cause them to be hyperactive and impulsive. Stress or burnouts might make it look like inattentiveness. One way to differentiate between just high energy and ADHD is to observe symptoms in the context in which they occur. For example, whether a particular task or environment makes you inattentive.
With kids it might be easier to detect symptoms, but for adults, a thorough evaluation would be necessary to make a correct diagnosis, so your healthcare provider might ask you or the people around you multiple questions, do physical examinations, or take an in-depth look at your history.
Since ADHD is largely genetic, (Is ADHD genetic? Find out more here.) in many cases, adults are unaware that they have ADHD and are often troubled with problems such as sticking to a job or difficulty staying organised. There is a good chance that your parents or teachers did not recognise it to be ADHD, so you are not to blame for these struggles. So, it is not too late to get a diagnosis and start working on treatments if you think you have ADHD. Want to know more about whether ADHD can be cured or treated? Read this.
There is a good scope of improvement when it comes to ADHD. Behavioral therapy has shown great success at treatment of ADHD symptoms. Remember that help is available.