Do We All Have ADHD (Or Does It Just Seem Like It)?

By Ted Behr, M. Ed., CPCC, ACC

We all have friends or coworkers who just can’t seem to sit still or stay focused. “I must have undiagnosed ADHD,” they joke. When you get right down to it, we’ve all felt restless, disorganized, or distracted at one time or another. So then, do we all just have ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)­—once referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)—is one of the most common disorders in childhood, affecting about 7.5 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic. But many adults with ADHD don’t even realize they have the disorder. They do know that everyday tasks—from keeping appointments and getting up in the morning, to staying focused and being productive—are a real challenge.

Adults who have ADHD have had it since childhood. The Mayo clinic states that out of the people with ADHD, one-third outgrow their symptoms, one-third have symptoms that are less severe than when they were younger, and one-third have persistent and significant symptoms as an adult.

Symptoms

While everyone likely experiences a couple of the symptoms listed below from time to time, for people with ADHD, the symptoms have caused a long history of problems in their schooling, their work and their relationships.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adult ADHD symptoms can include:

  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Disorganization
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Unstable relationships

When it comes to diagnosing ADHD, the notion of “significant impairment” is key. Impairment refers to the ways in which the symptoms disrupt a person’s life. For example, a person with ADHD may have trouble at work because of their inability to meet deadlines or stay focused, or they might have a whopping credit card bill because of impulsive spending. Still others might have an unusually high amount of stress and conflict in their marriage. ADHD is diagnosed only when a person’s symptoms have significantly impaired at least two major settings in their life, such as work and family.

And since people with ADHD have had trouble ever since they were kids, if it’s gone undiagnosed, many also develop low self-esteem.

An Example

A client of mine who is a teacher is a good example of someone with ADHD.  Because of her ADHD, she is quite disorganized.  She is always rushing to get papers back to her students in a timely fashion and loses whole weekends in a frenzy to get her grades in on time.  When she gets home, she throws her mail on a pile which she keeps putting off looking at as it gets bigger and bigger, leading her to pay bills late and incur late charges.  She is also an artist, but her workspace is so messy that she hasn’t done any work in months.  In addition, her mother, who lives with her, is constantly upset because the dining room table is buried under a pile of my client’s stuff.

Managing The Disorder

While there is no cure for ADHD, there are ways to manage it.  Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. While there is still some debate about the best treatment, combining medication and counseling or coaching seems to be the most effective. Counseling for adults often includes psychotherapy; both counseling and coaching include education about the disorder, as well as developing the skills to successfully manage daily tasks and responsibilities.

How Do I Know If I Have ADHD?

If you think that you might have ADHD, there are quizzes and questionnaires online that can give you an idea about how likely that is.  Two highly-regarded ones are http://psychcentral.com/addquiz.htm and http://addresources.org/dr-amens-adult-adhd-checklist/.   As a trained ADHD coach, I am happy to have a conversation with you and give you my opinion about your situation.

However, in order to get a definitive answer, you need to be tested by a mental health professional that has training and experience in treating people with ADHD.  The best way to find someone who does that is to get a referral from your doctor.  I can also provide you with resources to help you find a professional in your area.

Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications