Booking an appointment is a step many adults take once they have understood how it is possible to develop an attention disorder later in life, and the factors that trigger it. Adult ADHD is difficult to accurately diagnose since the symptoms are non-specific and are shared by other better-known disorders like depression, anxiety, sleep issues, or other physical ailments.
Some experts estimate that if ADHD were only diagnosed using self-reported symptoms, 80% of the time the condition would be indicated when it does not exist. As a person’s stress, anxiety, or depression heightens, so do symptoms that resemble those of adult ADHD.
One reason it is important to have a good level of knowledge about late-onset ADHD is that you can apply it to your situation and examine your lifestyle before booking an appointment with a medical professional for a diagnosis. When you do book an appointment, you must have a good record of your symptoms and history so you can share these with an ADHD specialist of whatever variety.
Understanding adult ADHD.
Broadly speaking, ADHD is one of several types of neurodevelopmental disorders. These are conditions that impact the functioning of your brain and can range in intensity from mild, where those impacted can live regular lives, to severe, which require lifelong care.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that interferes with several mental skills, including working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These are displayed in our ability to plan, organize, control our impulses, pay attention, and regulate our emotions. Research shows that ADHD impacts just fewer than 10% of children and about 4% of adults in North America.
While some people think that ADHD disappears as a person matures to adulthood, this is false. ADHD (if truly present) will always be present in some capacity, even if the individual develops effective coping mechanisms to manage the effects of the disorder. ADHD symptoms are known to change as time passes, often becoming less distinct and therefore more difficult to recognize.
Adult ADHD has several signs, which include:
- High sensitivity to rejection.
- Feeling easily overwhelmed by regular tasks at work or normal commitments.
- Hyperfocusing on set projects and areas of interest.
- Difficulty structuring and prioritizing tasks.
- Struggles with time management.
- Severe and ongoing problems with managing stress, possibly combined with high levels of emotion.
Is it even possible to develop adult ADHD?
The fact that some research findings suggest that adult ADHD may be a different type of syndrome from ADHD that affects children means that there is some ambiguity about whether or not it can develop spontaneously in adults. Part of this ambiguity is that existing guidelines require that symptoms be present before age 12.
If someone is not diagnosed as a child it does not exclude them from having the condition, especially because ADHD is under-diagnosed in general, and in girls in particular. As a result, many people live with silent ADHD before an event or change in their life reveals the symptoms in a more obvious way.
Indicators of adult ADHD.
Take a look at the list below to see some indicators that adult ADHD is present.
Bad sleeping habits.
Poor and insufficient sleep is considered a “public health epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other global medical bodies. In North America alone it is estimated that one out of every three adults are not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And almost two in ten adults suffer from a sleep disorder.
The popular attitude that a person can get by on six or fewer hours of sleep each night is directly linked to significant long-term impaired health, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It also impacts the quality of your day-to-day life, primarily in how your brain works.
Sleeping less than the recommended amount affects your ability to remain alert and concentrate, and can start to interfere with your memory and recall, making you impulsive and irritable.
The regular argument posed by those who more often than not prioritize other activities over sleep is that they do not feel tired. But, in medical terms, these cognitive deficits remain. And as more time passes individuals who are sleep-deprived get used to functioning without sufficient sleep, which then causes them to underestimate the impact it has on their life.
The research is indisputable – those with enormous sleep deficits continue to have lower cognitive performance and mood symptoms that mimic ADHD. In addition to this, because continued sleep deprivation damages the brain, chronic poor sleepers can cause their mild, or even latent, ADHD to be far more severe as an adult and so trigger the full onset of the condition.
Stress can effectively trigger episodes of adult ADHD. However, it is also known to cause symptoms that only appear as adult ADHD in those who do not have the condition. Research has found that there is a link between extended periods of anxiety and a decrease in the performance of working memory.
This results in increased difficulty paying attention and remembering new information. Unfortunately, stress can also trigger, or worsen, insomnia which makes these negative cognitive effects even worse.
There are a variety of medical conditions that can manifest as adult ADHD or make it worse. These include untreated diabetes, seizure disorders, hypoglycemia, a variety of different sleep disorders, and thyroid disease. Because of this, experts advise people who suspect that they have adult ADHD to first get a complete physical exam before they point to their mood or cognitive changes as evidence of ADHD.
Side effects of medication.It is a fact of modern medicine that medication produces both the effect for which it is designed and unwanted side effects. These effects may be changes in mood, cognition, and memory.
Medication is prescribed to assist mental health, such as certain atypical antipsychotics and antidepressants, as well as medication to treat physical conditions such as corticosteroids, drugs that lower cholesterol, beta-blockers, anticholinergics, and sleeping medication, among others.
Your doctor will be able to alert you to possible side effects of any new medication you may have started to take, especially if you suspect that your ADHD symptoms have intensified since beginning treatment. She will likely be able to offer you an alternative product or help you find ways to manage the mental, and possibly emotional, side effects of the one you are taking.
Not having the required nutrients.
Both iron deficiency and vitamin deficiency anemia can cause personality changes, forgetfulness, and confusion. If physical symptoms such as pale skin, weakness, dizziness, irregular pulse, extreme fatigue, or any others suggest a nutrient deficiency, then consult your doctor about having a blood test performed.
Of course, if you are aware that you have adult ADHD and are taking medication for it then it is important to know that some ADHD medications suppress the appetite, which can increase the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in your diet. Make sure that nutrient deficiencies are not to blame for enhanced symptoms.
Too much screen time.
Children are not the only ones badly affected by spending too much time in front of the screen. Increased evidence shows that it disrupts adults’ ability to learn and pay attention in at least two ways. First, it is designed to encourage us to scroll between many different distractions rather than focus on one task at a time, and second, it does so indirectly by reducing a person’s quality and quantity of sleep.
If you would like to inquire about a potential ADHD diagnosis, get help managing your symptoms, or find help with depression or anxiety, therapy is a valuable resource. The counselors at our office would be honored to walk with you on this journey of healing and hope.
“Overwhelmed”, Courtesy of Luis Villasmil, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fish”, Courtesy of Olivia Oliver Design, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pills”, Courtesy of Alexander Mils, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Passed Out Drunk”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License
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