A recent Mayo Clinic Health Letter discussed the under-recognized neurological condition known as ADHD, or adult attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Although far more often associated with children, adults have been identified as having the disorder as well. ADHD symptoms often mimic the signs associated with other conditions, notably anxiety. You may be tempted to pass such symptoms off as a manageable irritant, but to the degree that they negatively affect your relationships or make you prone to accidents, it may be worth investigating. A study in 2015 found that ADHD can cut years off your life expectancy
In general, ADHD symptoms primarily involve issues with focus and concentration. In adults, ADHD manifests itself in a number of ways:
• Emotional Impairment. This may include irritability, outbursts of anger, a low tolerance for frustration and difficulty with motivation.
• Hyperactivity. This can appear as restlessness, unusual talkativeness or being in a constant state of motion. Adults with ADHD not surprisingly, prefer very active jobs.
• Inattention. This includes procrastination and poor time management, difficulty with decisions, and an inability to organize activities.
• Sleeplessness. Adults with ADHD are often chronically sleep-deprived. They struggle to fall asleep because of restlessness. Once asleep, they may not get sufficient downtime.
• Impulsivity. Examples can include a tendency to end relationships abruptly, an unwillingness to wait in line for service, and an unusual number of driving violations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior may be less obvious in adults and inattention symptoms more pronounced. Depression and anxiety can go hand in hand with the condition, making a clear diagnosis challenging. Your doctor may do a physical exam to rule out other causes, followed by a psychological test to determine the frequency of the symptoms. Mayo recommends that these tests also be completed by people who know you well, such as a partner or spouse, in order to get a complete picture of the symptoms and how they impact your life.
How to Tackle the Problem
Medication for ADHD commonly involves a stimulant drug, which---counter-intuitively---calms a person with ADHD. These include Ritalin and Concerta and amphetamines such as Vyvanse. Short-acting formulations of these drugs can be used to target critical hours in the day. As always, some medicines can be habit-forming, so proceed with caution and seek your doctor's advice. And as with all stress-causing conditions, develop sound stress-management habits: eat and drink sensibly, try to get plenty of sleep and exercise in moderation.
The Role of Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) also can play a role in helping you get the ADHD under control. CBT can train you in specific skills to better manage tasks---for example, using a planner or task list, breaking down large or difficult tasks into manageable ones, and developing an advanced awareness of time. It may also help you reframe the thinking that can generate anxiety, depression and feelings of perfectionism.
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