Published on 7 October 2021

    What is ADHD? 

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a mental health disorder that is typically identified by a string of persistent problems related to inattentiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

    While most commonly cataloged in children (approximately 3% to 5% of them), ADHD research showed that adults can suffer from the psychiatric disorder too. In fact, a 2017 study across 20 countries showed that Adult ADHD affected about 2.8% of their adult population. 

    Does ADHD in childhood lead to adult ADHD? 

    If you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child, there is a high likelihood that you still have it as an adult. “ADHD is widely accepted as a lifelong condition. But symptoms usually improve and remit as we grow older and patients generally don’t require medication treatment after some time,” said Dr Aaron Meng, Consultant, Psychiatry, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH). 

    As such, Dr Meng suggested that a majority of Adult ADHD patients don’t require psychiatric treatment, but are still able to navigate through adulthood successfully. “This is because symptoms do improve as we grow older, or we may find means to cope around our symptoms,” he explained. 

    When to get evaluated?

    For individuals who were not diagnosed in their younger years, it is frequently an ambiguous journey to get ADHD pinpointed in adulthood. The condition presents different struggles for adults, potentially having debilitating effects on self-esteem, work performance and personal relationships. 

    So how does one know when to get evaluated? Dr Meng suggested looking out for the following signs and symptoms: 

    • Inattentiveness: Forgetfulness, easily distracted, difficulty organising or planning, difficulties starting and finishing tasks, a wandering mind.

    • Hyperactivity: Difficulties relaxing, talking too much and too loud, not being able to sustain an office job because of restlessness, knocking things over because of excessive mobility.

    • Impulsivity: Acting without thinking, difficulties waiting for your turn, walking out of jobs, starting relationships too quickly.

    • Emotional Dysregulation: Frequent mood swings, anger outbursts, low frustration tolerance. 

    These symptoms are usually not abrupt, and should have been “chronic and persistent throughout life, affecting and impairing multiple settings of your daily life,” Dr Meng elaborated.  

    Another telling sign would be whether your family has a history of the condition, which is a significant risk factor and raises the possibility of having it yourself.

    Diagnosis and treatment 

    Diagnosing an invisible condition such as ADHD might require a range of psychiatric and neuropsychological assessments to confirm the disorder. Using structured interview techniques and psychological tools, a psychiatrist and psychologist will be able to better deduce the condition.

    “The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a careful and systematic assessment of a lifetime history of symptoms and impairment. The psychiatrist will also screen for other psychiatric conditions that may also present with similar symptoms, for example, depressive or anxiety disorders,” said Dr Meng. 

    Treatment for Adult ADHD is similar to treatment for ADHD in childhood. While medication is available to help mitigate the effects, it is notably unable to cure the disorder. Non-pharmacological treatments and interventions such as psychoeducation (helping patients better understand their condition), cognitive behavioural therapy and targeted coaching may also be employed as treatment methods. 

    Although ADHD is not curable, there are a slew of ways for diagnosed adults to thrive in life, by acquiring an honest acceptance of the condition, proper treatment and surrounding oneself with the right support. 

    Suspect you might have Adult ADHD? Reach out to our professionals here.

    In consultation with Dr Aaron Meng, Consultant, Psychiatry, NTFGH.

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