Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is known to affect at least 8.4% of children, and 2.5% of adults. However, these statistics are likely to be much higher as many adults and females go undiagnosed. Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD can have a severe impact on a person’s life, including their personal life, social dynamics, career or schooling, as well as negatively impacting confidence and feelings of self-worth.
Common Traits of Adult ADHD
People with ADHD can present with one of a few different sub-types of ADHD.
First, there is the inattentive subtype. Inattentive ADHD is characterised by difficulty focussing on one task, initiating tasks, sustaining attention, and being easily distractable. Adults with an inattentive ADHD often have difficulty following conversations, interrupt others when they are speaking, misplace their keys or other items often, overlook details, and/or find that their mind wanders and they often daydream. Difficulties with regulating attention can also lead to periods of time when adults with ADHD become hyper-focussed on a particular task, and so engrossed in it that they might not be aware of much else. This change from inattention to hyperattention can be confusing to outsiders and can lead to misunderstandings with family and friends.
Next, there is the hyperactive subtype of ADHD. The word ‘hyperactive’ might bring to mind a child who is constantly on the move and never sitting still. But for adults with ADHD, hyperactivity does not always look that way. Instead, many adults learn to hold this hyperactive energy inside. For these adults, the only sign to an outsider of hyperactivity might be constant fidgeting, or a constantly tapping foot or shaking leg. For the adult with hyperactive ADHD, they might feel incredibly restless, or as though they have a hyperactive mind that is always on the go and buzzing with ideas and thoughts, and difficult to switch off. In addition, these adults have a tendency to be impulsive and might like thrill-seeking behaviour.
Finally, there is a combined subtype of ADHD. This describes adults who experience both the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms of ADHD.
Emotional and Social Difficulties in Adult ADHD
The symptoms of all subtypes of ADHD can be disruptive to an adult’s relationships, as well as their own self-esteem. Difficulties with paying attention to others, staying on task, being on time, and remembering commitments made to others can create the misconception that these adults are uncaring, irresponsible or even less intelligent. An adult with undiagnosed ADHD can internalise these misconceptions and believe them to be true, leading to a low self-esteem or belief that they are unable to achieve or have meaningful relationships. But this is far from the truth, and seeking treatment with a psychologist can be the first important step in rebuilding an often bruised and confused self-esteem.
Treatment For Adult ADHD
There is lots of good news when it comes to treatment options. A lot is known about how to live effectively with adult ADHD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is useful for equipping adults with the tools needed to understand the role of thoughts and particular behaviours in managing ADHD symptoms effectively. ADHD coaching involves learning different skills and strategies to start to work with the symptoms of ADHD, rather than struggle against the symptoms, and to increase organisation, efficiency, productivity, and social and emotional skills. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches new ways of relating to hyperactivity in the mind and body and uses skills like mindfulness to bring new perspectives and choice to the way in which particular symptoms influence other behaviours.
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms ring a bell for you or for anyone you know, feel free to get in contact with us at Sydney City Psychology. We can have a discussion around any questions you might have, and book you in for a private session with one of our experienced adult ADHD psychologists. We utilise all the treatment approaches described above, as well as running online group sessions where groups of adults with ADHD meet and learn new ways of highlighting all the wonderful aspects of ADHD, and problem-solving the difficult aspects.
Whether it be at the early stages of considering an assessment for diagnosis, or if you have been living with diagnosed ADHD for years and would like some extra support, we are here to support you in your ADHD adventure.