Adult ADHD

It’s most often thought of as a childhood disorder. But adult ADHD —attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—is very common, affecting around eight million U.S. adults. And now new research shows many of these individuals need help getting help. One of the ways that adult ADHD differs from childhood ADHD is that most of the adults are undiagnosed and untreated. But if they can get help, it can have a dramatically positive effect in their lives.

“Procrastination, I was always procrastinating. Back in college when the final came up I would be up for three straight days studying for it but I wasn’t absorbing things. If I wanted to read to a book if it were over two hundred pages it was almost daunting to me,” says 64-year old Thomas Ashley. He never knew what his problem was until he took a screening test for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He screened positive and fortunately, sought help.

 But many don’t because it’s a little bit like someone not being able to find their glasses because they don’t have their glasses on. Dr. Lenard Adler, director of the adult ADHD program at NYU, held an adult ADHD screening day two years ago. He did follow-up to see how the folks who screened positive ended up doing.

“Half of those individuals didn’t follow up and in fact their comments where mostly along the lines of I meant to do something about it, it was on my mind but I simply forgot so in many ways their ADHD symptoms got in the way of their following through. The findings are that many individuals with ADHD need some help getting help,” Dr. Adler states.

And it’s important those with ADHD do find out they have it and ge help. • Adults with untreated ADHD are about fifty percent more likely to smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol. • They are about twice as likely to be unemployed. • More likely to be divorced or separated • More likely yet have more motor vehicle accidents and more serious motor vehicle accidents.

But again, first, one needs to identify if one indeed has it. Dr. Adler uses a simple six item screening questionnaire put out by the world health organization. Positive screening leads to more intensive evaluation, and then treatment—which still works for adults, no doubt, and involves medication, the same that are used in kids in many instances, like strattera and adderal.

“We know that about 80 percent of the transition of ADHD is genetic, it is a disorder that tends to run in families and therefore it is medications play a primary role,” Dr. Adler states. Thomas was started on the medicine concerta. Now, at the age of 64, he has found a new joy in writing and in books. “I have gone back to school and I am taking several courses at the new school and I am finding get a great pleasure where as when I was in college before I found it a chore, it has made a big difference,” Thomas states happily.

If individuals are worried that they may have ADHD, the World Health Organization six question screener is a good place to start, it is the six items most predictive of the disorder and really identifies if you need to investigate further whether you have it. The screening test is available in dr. Adler’s book “Scatter Minds,” or you can visit it at "NYU Langone Medical Center."


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