Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a commonly occurring condition and for decades was thought of mainly as a disorder of childhood. Images come to mind of the hyperactive, disruptive child running around the school room or house or the quiet boy or girl staring out the window during class seemingly unaware of the teacher, parent, or friend talking to them. We now know that as many of these children grow into adolescence and adulthood their symptoms do not simply disappear. ADHD may change in how it manifests itself later in life but nonetheless is just as impactful on one’s school, work, home life, and relationships with other people.
With more health information easily accessible, many adolescents and adults with ADHD may be self-diagnosing as they are ever more challenged with increasing demands in life to multitask, work harder in school and longer hours in faster-paced jobs, and perform tasks that place higher demands on their executive functioning. They may often use coping strategies to manage their condition but such strategies can be psychologically, physically, and emotionally taxing. They may find their grades are impacted, lose jobs, find relationships affected, have trouble parenting and managing home, work, and social, and responsibilities. There are high rates of substance abuse seen in untreated teens and adults with ADHD as they try to self medicate the emotional burdens of life with ADHD.
Getting evaluated and tested by a trained mental health professional before getting ADHD treatment is important because many of the symptoms of ADHD including poor focus, procrastination, distractibility, impulsivity, and poor organization can also be symptoms of other psychiatric conditions. Also, ADHD often co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and these must be treated as well for the ADHD therapies to be effective. Testing can include psychological testing, computer testing, and psychiatric and psychological evaluation. One quick and inexpensive test that we conduct in our office is the Quotient test but still must be used in conjunction with an evaluation by a trained mental health professional.
There are many non- drug interventions that been shown to help those with ADHD. These include behavioral, psychological, social, educational, and lifestyle changes but prescription medications, mainly stimulant medications, have really been the mainstay of therapy for treatment of ADHD for many years. While these medicines have been shown clinically to be helpful they do not work for everyone and can have significant side effects for others. There are a number of non-stimulant options to manage ADHD behaviors as well.