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ADHD in Adults: Know the Signs

Posted 2/8/2016 by UHBlog

If ADHD is getting in the way of a productive adulthood, call us for help.

ADHD in Adults: Know the Signs

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often dismissed as a frivolous diagnosis given to children whose parents can’t or won’t discipline them. But the truth is, ADHD is a real and chronic condition that can follow some patients into adulthood.

“As many as 10 percent of children and adolescents have this problem, and of those, 40 to 50 percent will continue to have symptoms into adulthood,” says psychiatrist Luis Ramirez, MD.

Usually, ADHD symptoms appear before age 12. They include persistent problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with learning, working, maintaining relationships and other aspects of life. Some adults develop other illnesses or disorders associated with ADHD, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The causes of ADHD are unknown, but some experts suspect a genetic component. There’s also some evidence ADHD may occur in children whose mother smoked during pregnancy, developed an infection during pregnancy or had a difficult delivery.

Although there’s no cure for ADHD, treatments can help manage the symptoms. Depending on the severity, patients may benefit from talk therapy, medications or a combination of the two. A group of antidepressants known as tricyclics and the non-stimulant Strattera® (atomoxetine) are the most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD.

“The problem with stimulants is that they have the potential for addiction and abuse, and have a street value,” Dr. Ramirez says, adding some primary care physicians are reluctant to prescribe stimulants. “We need to be very careful in prescribing medications.”

Some folks are unable to tolerate ADHD drugs because they become too stimulated or aggressive or experience eating and sleeping disturbances, he points out. For others, however, medication allows them to maintain productive jobs, pursue their interests and cultivate meaningful relationships.

Whether or not your ADHD treatment includes therapy and medication, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms. These include:

  1. Doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles, or playing video games or word games like Scrabble to improve concentration. Some studies suggest solving puzzles stimulates the production of new brain cells.
  2. Practicing mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgment. This boosts attentiveness and helps regulate emotions.
  3. Exercising, participating in martial arts or practicing yoga to increase concentration.
  4. Limiting distractions by turning off your television, cell phone or computer while completing a task or interacting with others.
  5. Breaking down jobs into smaller, manageable tasks. For instance, instead of panicking about completing a report for work by 5 o'clock tomorrow, divide it into separate steps:
    • Gather data this morning
    • Analyze it this afternoon
    • Assemble the report tomorrow morning
    • Allow yourself the afternoon to make any necessary tweaks
  6. Resisting impulses to speak or act until you’ve thought through a situation.
  7. Maintaining a sense of humor when ADHD causes you to say or do something embarrassing or inappropriate.
  8. Educating loved ones and co-workers about ADHD, so they can recognize when you’re struggling and offer support instead of criticism.

Luis Ramirez, MD is a psychiatrist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ramirez or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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