Mental Health

It’s for Real: Adult ADHD Myths and Facts

December 19, 2019

It’s for Real: Adult ADHD Myths and Facts

Feeling overly scattered or disorganized? Do you find yourself struggling with completing tasks, remaining focused on your responsibilities, and/or unable to keep up with normal, everyday activities?  It happens to everyone. We might even joke about our lack of focus or our extremely limited attention-spans.

For some adults however, these symptoms are more than just a laughing matter. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition most often connected to children, can also have adult-sized consequences.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a condition marked by longstanding and persistent inattention, hyperactivity, overt restlessness, and sometimes irresponsible impulsivity. Symptoms of Adult ADHD vary widely. It might be someone who starts multiple projects and lacks the focus to finish them. Struggling with organization or constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed is also common.

Someone with ADHD might also find themselves rereading the same page of a book over and over again – or realizing they have been staring off into space when there is work that needs to be done.

In today’s stressful world, many of the aforementioned problems can be commonplace.  Nonetheless, when such issues become “dysfunctional” or overly-debilitating in our everyday lives – such as missing deadlines at work or struggling with parenting responsibilities – that’s when a diagnosis of adult ADHD should be explored.

Let’s start by debunking some common myths about ADHD.

Common Myths About ADHD

Myth: Adult ADHD is different from childhood ADHD

Fact: Considerable research has been conducted in recent years suggesting the developmental nature of ADHD.  Put another way, ADHD is not a disorder that suddenly appears in adulthood.  Rather, many of these symptoms are likely to have existed in childhood and adolescence, and may even possess genetic components.  While there may be multiple reasons that no diagnosis was ever made during these earlier years (i.e. lack of understanding of the problem, generational beliefs, etc.), it is frequently reported that adults with ADHD typically experienced similar symptoms when they were younger.

Some adults have even reported that they were able to develop effective coping mechanisms while in school.  As life becomes more complicated and stressed, however, their historical methods of overcoming their problems may have begun to fail and/or become less effective.

Myth: ADHD is more common in boys/men than in girls/women

Fact: It is difficult to say with certainty that ADHD is more common in males given that females may often simply go undiagnosed.  For many girls/women, they often “fly under the radar” given that their ADHD symptoms more commonly manifest as inattention or distractibility. Rather than, the restlessness and hyperactive behaviors seen in boys/men.

For some women, racing thoughts, disorganization, and/or chronic procrastination may also be misinterpreted as anxiety or depression and therefore, an accurate diagnosis may be missed.  Likewise in men, their continuous sleeplessness, restlessness and anger-control problems may be perceived as impulse-control disorders and/or other mood disorders.

Myth: Persistent disorganization, distractibility, or chronic procrastination typically leads people to seek treatment for ADHD

Fact: It is certainly true that some adults seek help when chronic disorganization or the inability to focus becomes a significant problem in their everyday lives. But more often, individuals seek professional assistance when realizing that their symptoms of inattentiveness or distractibility are causing them problematic anxiety or dysfunction at home, at work, or around others.

This is not surprising given that you can have both ADHD and anxiety. At times, people will present to treatment with statements like, “I’m not able to get things done at work and I feel constantly overwhelmed.  The more behind I fall, the more anxious I become.”

It is not difficult to understand the correlation between ADHD and anxiety and often the two possess a cyclical relationship.  As an example, someone with ADHD may frequently procrastinate and/or become easily distracted while attempting to complete projects.  Later, they may feel anxious about their incomplete work leading to feelings of nervousness, worry, or simple avoidance.  Rather than address the task, they may again procrastinate and put off working on it.  In turn, the tasks may continue to pile up leading to further anxiety; and thus, the cycle perpetuates.

Myth: ADHD treatment is all about medications

Fact: The first line of defense for ADHD is often medications. In this realm, two types of medications are most common: stimulants and non-stimulants. The goals of both of these medications are to bring about greater focus in the frontal lobe of the brain. That way a person can maintain concentration, to feel personally organized, and to sustain attention on even moderately monotonous tasks.

It is beyond the scope of this brief article to discuss the nature of all ADHD medications. That’s why patients are encouraged to talk to their prescribers openly about considering ADHD medications.

Talking to Your Doctor about ADHD

Patients Should Talk About Their Historical Symptoms Including:

As is the case with most mental health diagnoses, the most effective treatment for ADHD often involve medication and psychotherapy.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has proven particularly beneficial for many patients struggling to remain organized throughout their days and focused on personal responsibilities.  Within therapy, clinicians can assist with developing and implementing various coping mechanisms and behavioral techniques including the use of daily calendars, cognitive-reorientation skills, scheduled breaks, etc.

Other Aspects of Treatment May Include the Following:

  • Changes to a person’s lifestyle such as avoiding caffeine, nicotine, or excessive consumption of sugar.
  • Establishing daily routines, exercise habits, and proper sleep hygiene may also prove useful.

However, the success of life adjustments depends on a person’s motivation, readiness and willingness to change.

For help treating ADHD symptoms, please learn more about CHI Health Behavioral Care.

4 Comments
  1. Avatar

    JB

    Having struggled with anxiety socially (as a child dismissed as shy) but in hind sight I think the difference I would point out is that I wasn't aware at the time that I felt overwhelmed with what response to choose. I would just stare i think like in paralysis, which having worked in the IT field we called, "analysis paralysis" only I had no such notion of this while young. If I were to guess by what I recall the tell for me would be noticing this persisted and wasn't a simple intro problem. I think it should be examined if you see more than normal starter interactions because even as an adult this is what is still a high anxiety issue. But, I had plenty of social education and the more didn't seem to change this. The social anxiety started getting me down. I started to hide this by maintaiing a not to be bothered unless we have business, making people not wanting to approach me, while in my head i would be putting myself down for wanting to interact but at the same time determined not to look awkward. I chose the private pain over the chance of public humiliating myself. I bring this up because it took me down a rocky path since I didn't show hyperactive acting out mine was what I feel might fit how a female might fly even lower on the radar because I at least stood out as oddly closed mannered (even getting in trouble with friends I was the anxious one) All this I had come to understand was suggesting stimulant was counter and i had to beg to give it a try because the side effects of antidepressant. I will never forget first taking the ADHD med bcause i couldn't believe how calm I felt. The next thing was how I didn't feel the normal fog of what to do. It was also right then it occurred to me, as i described to my provider, that I actually think that fog causes pain because with it gone I ralized what I had always dismissed as dull sinus headache was gone, so I was convinced whether accurate or not that confused decision making can actually create pain. Then like a fool I hadn't considered my normal restrictive auto listenning went down like an overflowing damn and I started skipping listening altogether just to dump it all out. Which a similar issue occurred with me when i took an anxiety med that dropped my auto OCD like warning system to always double check what Im doing and I drove off with the gas pump still attached to the vehicle. It leads me though to point out as difficult as it is to unravel the related I can see the need for training someone how to handle when they find something works how they might not be mindful of the (speed limit on new road) and thing is while taking the stimulant i noticed i even napped better. But in my case with adder all it still had the effect of speeding up fatigue and I neglected to keep hydrated. The thing I learned the hard way is that it really requires you to be diligent with avoiding additional stimulant or you will slowly lose sleep (do not go there) and then its like if had ever been so tired you don't make sense or just give answers realizing you don't really get the question. Well its like your brain isn't awake like you think it is at that point. Then the frustration your not functioning correctly getting more frustrated and in my case like a mad child that didn't get his nap. Warning: as an adult this will get you a ticket to the zoo if they don't consider you dangerous and want to mark you terminal. So, should you find you benefit from this med please take the sleep very seriously because you need to manage it when it can override your judgement. I hope this is of some value and I'm hoping my tiny keyboard and this two line box hasn't made this unbearable. I feel I've not stated things organized but I didn't expect to be doing this on my worst keyboard ever. thanks for the article

  2. Avatar

    Zack Wagner

    I was diagnosed with ADD (Not ADHD) in 1982 while in 4th grade, we tried a multitude of concoctions and medication that never seemed to work. When I entered 6th grade in a different state, my mother had me quit taking the medication because she thought they weren't doing me any good. I had to learn how to cope with my condition. Fast forward 30 years. My wife and I are fighting all the time, we almost split up several times... and I go back to my doctor who puts me on different medications trying to dial me in... At one point, while on Concerta, I was paranoid, crying and hiding under my desk convinced my wife was cheating on me. I switched to Stratara and I have been right as rain for the past 15 years. I did actually up my dosage and even that has made a bigger difference in my mood and ability to focus.

  3. Avatar

    NMB

    I see nothing on who to go to for diagnosis & treatment for ADHD! WHY?

  4. Avatar

    CHI Health

    Hello, in the post we recommend reaching out to your doctor. If you do not have one, see our Behavioral Health providers here: https://www.chihealth.com/en/services/behavioral-care.html.

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