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ADHD In Adults | 5 Frequently Asked Questions

A pin board with adhd in adults written on the front.

If you’re here because you want to learn more about ADHD in adults, perhaps because you’ve identified characteristics in yourself consistent with the condition, or maybe because you recently received a diagnosis, this article is for you.


Together we’ll explore a range of frequently asked questions about ADHD in adults. We’ll consider the clinical definition of ADHD as well as a range of signs and symptoms synonymous with the condition.


In addition, you’ll find answers to questions concerning the best contemporary methods of managing ADHD. On our travels, you’ll also find links to professional agencies that offer one-to-one coaching or group support.


But most important of all, from this article you will see that you are not alone. That ADHD in adults is more common than you previously realised and that the condition is nothing to feel ashamed about.


What does adhd stand for

ADHD is an abbreviation for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s classified as a form of neuro divergence and is thus protected under the equality act. According to the Royal College of Psychology, people are diagnosed with ADHD when they struggle with:


  • Inattention – unable to sustain concentration or focus on a task for protracted periods

  • Hyperactivity – feel restless and discursively flit from one activity to another

  • Impulsivity – acting or speaking without first thinking about the potential consequences


Of course, most (if not all) people experience or display one or more of the three characteristics at some point in their lives. Who hasn’t lost their attention when engaged in a task? Or felt restless or acted impulsively?


Typically, though, someone experiencing a lack of concentration is likely to be able to attribute it to something out of the ordinary, such as a poor night’s sleep, or increased stress in the workplace.


ADHD in adults is persistent and prolonged

The difference for people with ADHD is that the characteristics are persistent. They start in childhood and remain throughout their adult lives. In addition, the condition can be so acute that they are unable to cope with aspects of daily life.


For example, the severity of inattention can be all but debilitating, making it extremely difficult for an ADHD sufferer to complete even relatively simple jobs – reading an email or staying tuned in during a team meeting.


ADHD Fact: A person is 80% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if a parent also has the condition.

(Current Psychiatry Reports 2020)


ADHD in adults

A common misunderstanding concerning ADHD is that it is found only in young people. Another misunderstanding is that young people ‘just grow out of it’ – as though ADHD was a fashion or cultural curiosity.


Thankfully, though, the winds of understanding are changing. Research into ADHD is starting to show that it is a complex condition that can present many lifelong challenges.


These challenges can range from flitting focus to severe anxiety. It’s for these reasons, and those outlined below, that ADHD should be taken seriously.


Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Another welcomed advancement is the wider recognition that ADHD affects people of all ages. This has resulted in the additional classification of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


Yet, while adult ADHD has been clinically classified, features in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health), and has received governmental funding – for support networks, the procurement of reasonable adjustments, and further research – there is still a lingering social stigma and incredulity concerning the condition. This is especially problematic in the workplace.


A failure to accept, acknowledge and support people with adult ADHD can result in an unwillingness to disclose the condition. This can lead to unnecessary suffering as those with ADHD will feel disinclined to reach out for help.


As well as impacting their quality of life, failing to provide reasonable adjustments for ADHD sufferers can adversely affect their capacity to be productive members of the workforce.


ADHD Fact: More than 66% of people diagnosed with ADHD have a coexisting condition, anxiety, mood disorder, or sleep disorder.

What are the signs of adhd in adults?

The signs of ADHD are more pronounced in adolescents. This makes it easier to identify the disorder early on. And because ‘ADHD is a developmental disorder, it’s believed it cannot develop in adults without it first appearing during childhood,’ (NHS – 2022).


But, as many people with adult ADHD can attest, it can go undiagnosed throughout a person’s formative years. Yet, while ‘ADHD in children and teenagers often continue into adulthood,’ the signs and symptoms do attenuate over time.


On the one hand, this is positive as the severity of the symptoms eases, making the condition more manageable. On the other hand, though, it becomes harder to detect ADHD in adults, making it harder to get an accurate diagnosis.


adhd in adults symptoms and treatment

As more research is being conducted into ADHD, the range of associative symptoms has gradually increased. When ADHD was first identified and clinically classified in the 1980s, medical practitioners identified a narrow range of salient symptoms. They were:


  • inattentiveness,

  • hyperactivity, and

  • impulsivity.


However, since then specialists have compiled a list of other symptoms associated with ADHD in adults. According to the NHS’s overview of the signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that list includes:


  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail

  • starting new tasks before finishing ones previously undertaken

  • a lack of organisation skills

  • impaired focus

  • inability to accurately prioritise tasks and responsibilities

  • regularly losing or misplacing things

  • general forgetfulness

  • feeling restful or ‘edgy’

  • struggle to identify accepted social cues during discourse – speaking out or interpolating

  • abrupt changes in mood, irritability, and quick to temper

  • inability to deal with stress

  • extreme impatience

  • risk-taking in activities ‘often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously.’


ADHD Fact: ADHD affects about 3 to 4 in every 100 adults suggesting that 2.1 million people in the UK have the condition (Royal College of Psychiatrists )

How do I get an adhd diagnosis

To get an ADHD diagnosis you would have to consult a certified professional healthcare provider. Contrary to common misunderstanding, GPs are not trained to diagnose ADHD. However, ‘they can discuss your concerns with you and refer you for a specialist assessment,’ (NHS – 2022).


As it stands, there are two routes to obtaining an ADHD diagnosis. One route is publicly funded and the other is private. I have outlined the two routes below.


Route one: NHS ADHD diagnosis

The first route is to speak with your local GP. During the consultation, the GP may conduct a simple assessment that aims to match your presenting symptoms to those synonymous with ADHD. Concluding the consultation, the GP may arrange an appointment with a specialist psychiatrist.


However, as it says on the NHS website, if your GP thinks that you have ADHD, they could first ‘suggest a period of “watchful waiting” – lasting around 10 weeks.’ After this time, another visit to the GP is required. If the symptoms are still presenting, the GP will put you forward for a diagnosis.


But it’s worth bearing in mind that referral times are long. Some sources suggest that you may have to be prepared to wait for anywhere between 90 days and 94 weeks (nearly two years) before you are seen by a psychiatrist.


Route two: Private ADHD diagnosis

Following on from above, a few scare stories are being bandied about on the web of people trying to get an ADHD diagnosis through the NHS. (It’s worth pointing out here that the NHS can hardly be blamed for long wait times. They are doing the best they can to service a swelling demand with a shrinking budget.)


On one website, an open-source news channel, a person claimed that they ‘had no choice but to spend £950 on a private assessment due to long NHS waiting lists.’ The report runs on to claim that ‘adults are being forced to wait up to four years in some parts of the UK for an ADHD assessment on the NHS.’


Not to be outdone, The Big Issue states that ADHD waiting times are at ‘crisis’ levels ‘as patients face seven-year wait for NHS diagnosis.’


This has led to an increasing number of people seeking ADHD diagnoses from private healthcare providers. However, as ADHD Aware advise, ‘Do your research, and make sure that the person you choose [to conduct an ADHD assessment] is a member of the General Medical Council and on their specialist register.’


Before booking an assessment, ADHD Aware recommend that you ask the following questions:


Q1: Does the provider require a GP referral to conduct an ADHD assessment?

Q2: What are their fees for the initial assessment, follow-up appointment and treatment plan?

Q3: Are they able to prescribe ADHD medication?


What are the adhd treatment for adults

ADHD treatments come in a multitude of forms. For example, there are specialist medications (methylphenidate) that can mitigate the worse symptoms. Over-the-counter medications can only be prescribed by a psychiatrist.


Before going down the medication route, it’s important to recognise that there are common side effects. The NHS outline the following:


  • An increase in blood pressure and heart rate

  • Loss of appetite which can impact body weight

  • Impaired sleeping habits

  • Frequent headaches

  • Stomach complaints

  • Feeling aggressive, irritable, depressed, anxious or tense


What can I do to support myself?

Depending on the severity of your ADHD symptoms, you may be able to support yourself independently of medication. Research has shown that lifestyle interventions can exert a positive impact on ADHD.


To conclude this article, I have outlined a range of recognised lifestyle factors that can help you manage your condition.


1) Inform those around you about your condition and how it affects you

Letting your nearest and dearest know about your ADHD and the ways it impacts your life, can open up a support network. In addition, when people understand what you are going through, they are more likely to help.


2) Exercise regularly

Emerging research is showing that exercise is an effective method of managing a broad range of mental health conditions. As yet, though, there’s no evidence to suggest that exercise can ease hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattentiveness. But exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms related to anxiety and depression, which can inflame ADHD symptoms. From this, we can conclude that exercise could exert an indirect positive effect. (Get started with this 5 Day Training Routine.)


3) Improve your sleep quality

Poor sleeping patterns can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. It is for this reason that you should establish a sleep routine. The author Why We Sleep, lists 12 tips for a good night’s sleep. They are:


  1. Stick to a schedule.

  2. Exercise in the day (and try to be as active as possible).

  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine (and vaping).

  4. Avoid alcoholic beverages before bed.

  5. Avoid large meals and drinks late at night.

  6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt sleep.

  7. Don’t take naps after 3 pm.

  8. Relax before bed.

  9. Take a hot bath before bed.

  10. Create the ideal sleeping environment by making your bedroom dark, cool, and devoid of electronic gadgets.

  11. Have the right sunlight exposure.

  12. Don’t lie in bed awake.


4) Cultivate healthy eating habits

There are tons of research showing the positive impacts of diet on physical and mental health. In his book Ultra-Processed People, Dr Chris van Tulleken exposes the detrimental impacts of unhealthy food on the brain. Foods high in sugar, caffeine, and chemicals can cause extreme fluctuations in mood and exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. According to Dr Greger, author of How Not To Die, the best diet for health is one high in whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables. (Start your healthy diet with these 10 Plant-Based Recipes.)


5) Get professional coaching

ADHD coaching is a practical intervention that aims to work with the difficulties of ADHD such as time management, goal setting and problem solving. As discussed above, ADHD can also impact our emotional state leading to emotional dysregulation. Depending on the training of the coach, an array of skills can also be included during the coaching session such as emotional intelligence and interpersonal awareness.


The approaches typically used in coaching can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness. Coaching is mostly based on CBT theory and therefore has many crossovers with third-wave behavioural interventions.


It is important to discuss your needs with the coach and explore what they can offer you. As part of my coaching practice, I offer a Pluralistic approach which is flexible and suited to the needs of the individual.


Access to work scheme – ADHD in adults coaching

If you have ADHD and live in the UK, are employed or run your own business you may be entitled to claim back funds for your ADHD coaching from the Department of Work and Pensions.


The funding comes from a government disability scheme known as the Access to Work – A2W scheme. A2W provides practical advice and support to help you overcome work-related obstacles. It can award grants towards extra employment costs, like ADHD coaching that can help you develop effective work habits and routines to overcome your ADHD challenges. It is usual practice for the client to pay the costs themselves and then claim reimbursement from the DWP.


 

Conclusion

The article aimed to give an overview of Adult ADHD which included the signs and symptoms and the options for receiving a diagnosis.


In addition, an outline was given of the treatments that are available which include medication, lifestyle interventions and ADHD coaching.


 

ADHD in adults blog author bio.

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