We hear a lot in the media about ADHD in children, but it’s not always picked up in childhood. For example, children with inattentive-only ADHD do not get into trouble as much and are therefore less likely to be reviewed by professionals. Likewise, especially intelligent people with ADHD may also be missed because they are often able to adapt and perform adequately at school. Such people are often diagnosed as adults.

The overall incidence of ADHD in adults in Australia is estimated to be 2-3%, as reported by the RACGP. While it’s not easy to pin down the exact numbers, it’s considered that up to 70% of childhood cases may continue into adult life.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

Adults with ADHD are likely to have problems with memory, paying attention and impulsive behaviours. This may show up as forgetfulness, mood swings, fidgeting, impatience, difficulty following instructions, trouble holding on to jobs and difficulty maintaining relationships.

People with symptoms of ADHD often present with other mental health conditions as well – such as anxiety, depression and mood disorders. People may turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope.

Contributing factors

While the causes of ADHD are not yet fully understood, contributing factors may include differences in neurophysiology (e.g. brain anatomy), genetics, exposure to drugs in utero and lack of attachment in infancy.

However, at this point there is no biological test for ADHD and diagnosis is done on the basis of lifestyle and behavioural patterns. It may also involve looking at a person’s childhood behaviours and interviewing family members and friends.

A combination of treatments effective

A combination approach seems to work effective for managing ADHD in adults. This includes medication, psychological therapies, education, and lifestyle changes.

According to RACGP the treatment rate for ADHD in adults in Australia is low. In addition, adults who were not diagnosed with ADHD in childhood are more likely to have substance abuse problems and to be involved in road accidents and crime.

This makes correctly diagnosing and treating ADHD all the more important.

Is there an upside to ADHD?

Yes – the message is not all doom and gloom! Adults with ADHD may show more energy, creativity, inventiveness and spontaneity than the average person. The trick may be to channel those traits into positive achievements as much as possible.

Want to know about ADHD in adults?

At Sydney City Psychology, we are holding a 10-week program on ADHD in adults, starting on July 21. It will build a greater understanding of ADHD, along with skills and lifestyle changes shown to help ADHD-ers get back into the driver’s seats of their own lives. The program will be held on Tuesdays from 5.30pm to 7pm. It is designed to be fun, and can be attended in person or online.

Call Cassandra on 02 9235 3127 (or use the contact form) if you would like to know more about the workshop or are interested in signing up!