ADHD Symptoms In Adults
“Biles is a world-class athlete who just happens to have ADHD”. Simone Biles, Olympic gold medal champion is one of many famous people who have voluntarily shared their ADHD story. Some include Wendy Davis, Ty Bennington, Richard Branson, James Carville and Katherine Ellison. Many of us know someone in our life with ADHD symptoms.
Biles demonstrated confidence and bravery as she said “Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of and I’m not afraid to let people know.” Labels and describing a person by their condition or disease hurts everyone.
Physical and mental illnesses are things we have. They are not who we are.
Simone Biles was encouraged to share her story. We are grateful for her honesty and opening the door for a conversation and clarification.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD impacts all aspects of someone’s life. It could show as poor job performance, relationship issues, low self-esteem, legal challenges or substance abuse.
Let’s begin by understanding what ADHD symptoms look like in adults:
- Hyperactivity – Restless
- Prioritization and Planning Problems
- Poor Time Management
- Inability To Focus
- Trouble Multitasking
- Difficulty Following Through
- Completing Things
ADHD Symptoms in Children
Parents may suspect ADHD in their child or teenager because of difficulty meeting school commitments. Behavioral problems at home. A revolving door of friends. Substance abuse. Emotional challenges.
ADHD symptoms in children look like:
- Fidgeting – Restless
- Blurting out – Excessive Talking or Interrupting
- Finds it difficult to stay focused
- Difficulty waiting in line or taking turns
- Attention to details – Careless Mistakes
- Cannot keep their focus or attention
- Doesn’t listen
- Unable to organize tasks – Jumps from task to task
- Misses deadlines – Forgetful – Doesn’t finish schoolwork or chores
- Easily distracted – Loses or Forgets Things
How Can a Parent Distinguish Between Normal Developmental Stages and ADHD Symptoms
Let me start by saying every parent I have spoken with in my 20 plus years of practice has come to me because they knew something was different. It was not just the teacher’s report.
My first suggestion to for parents is to “listen to your gut”. Watch and observe when and where the behaviors are happening.
Ask your primary health care provider or ADHD Specialist all of your questions.
It is only, when a trained clinician evaluates your child, that they can determine the severity of the ADHD symptoms. They’ll look at how the behaviors are affecting your child’s life. An ADHD diagnosis must consider two different settings where the ADHD symptoms occur.
Difference Between ADHD and Executive Function Disorder
Dr. Russell Barkley explains in his book, Taking Charge of ADHD, that “ADHD is a deficit in self-control (inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity) and on Executive Functioning (planning, organizing, managing emotions) over long periods of time”.
Executive Functioning is a set of cognitive processes occurring in the pre-frontal lobe of the brain. It impacts skills such as planning, organization, focusing, sustaining attention, regulating alertness, managing frustration, modulating emotions, accessing and recalling information, monitoring and regulating actions.
An individual may have Executive Function Disorder without having ADHD. However, someone with ADHD also has Executive Function Disorder symptoms because the “executive” in the brain that controls behaviors, and helps us organize and plan for the future is not doing the job it’s suppose to do.
ADHD Symptom Executive Function Disorder Symptoms
Inattentiveness Time Management
Impulsivity Task Initiation
Planning and Prioritization
Treatment for ADHD
Early detection and treatment of ADHD or Executive Function Disorder typically produces a more positive outcome versus when it’s diagnosed later in life. When detected early and treatment is pursued they learn how to manage it because they were educated earlier in life. In addition, adults have a life history (baggage) and possibly marriages. that make it challenging
ADHD affects the neurotransmitters in the brain. The neurotransmitters allow us to be more attentive, take control of hyperactivity and be less impulsive. As ADHD is a disorder of the brain, research has demonstrated that the only treatment to treat inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity is medication.
There is significant documented medical evidence to demonstrate that medication makes a difference. It shows it is a viable option for ADHD individuals. At the end of the day, the ADHD person needs to find the treatment options that fits them best.
However, this is just one component of ADHD. The other side is Executive Functions deficits. Medication is not going to help with Executive Function deficits because these are learned skills.
Deficits in Executive Function, such as poor organization and time management, should be addressed, as part of the ADHD disorder.
Executive Function Disorder Treatment Options
Executive Function deficits (organization, task initiation, emotional control, planning and prioritization) are best treated by the following options which focus on learned skills and behaviors.
The treatment option depends on the problem the person is facing and their age. Any of these treatment options will have a different impact on the person with ADHD or Executive Function Disorder. No one size fits all.
Education – it is important for parents of ADHD children and adults to educate themselves by learning about ADHD and Executive Functioning. You can read books, listen to podcasts, attend webinars or go to lectures, conferences and support groups. Learn how this information applies to your child or to “You” as an ADHD adult.
For parents of children and adolescents, in addition to medication management, parent coaching is about managing ADHD challenges. Learn how to establish rapport and communication. Get consistent so your children grow into adulthood without being impaired by their symptoms.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – is a type of talk therapy. It’s more structured connecting the person’s thoughts (maladaptive or distorted) with their emotions by using logic and data to rethink those thoughts. Self-esteem is one of the areas most impacted by ADHD and Executive Function Disorder. Once their symptoms are stable, CBT is a good treatment course.
Couple or Family Therapy – ADHD or Executive Function Disorder can result in a big impact on families and relationships. Learn the effects. Learn communication skills. Understand the role everyone’s play in the family/relationship. Find a mental health provider who understands and helps people with ADHD and co-existing conditions.
More Executive Function Treatment Options
ADHD Coaching – An ADHD Coach will work collaboratively with individuals with ADHD or Executive Function challenges to address specific needs and personal goals. An ADHD Coach address their client’s needs by identifying their strengths and building upon them.
Your ADHD Coach will likely emphasize the importance of building your own support system. People you can count on. An accountability partner who will support you and hold you accountable. That could be a teacher or a good friend in college. One of the things accountability partners do is to offer support by reminding you of things. Finding support is critical to developing accountability.
Mindfulness – more individuals with ADHD are using mindfulness in conjunction with other treatments. More research is being conducted in this area. The Journal of Child & Family Studies research defines mindfulness as a form of attention or meditation training, based on Buddhist tradition and Western knowledge of psychology, in which awareness of the present moment and non-judgmental observation is increased, whereas automatic responding is reduced Kabat-Zinn J (2003).
Exercise – Exercise increases the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Dr. Ratey, in his book Spark, explains how exercise physically can improve the attention system called Executive Functions.
Support Groups – CHADD and ADDA are among the free support groups for parents or adults with ADHD.
Academic Tutor – finding a tutor who understand how the ADHD brain works is a must when a child, adolescent or college student is having difficulty with their academics.
A combination of medication, with any of the above mentioned treatment options are excellent options.
How Do I Decide On Which ADHD Treatment Option
There are many treatment options for a child, teenager or adult with ADHD or Executive Function Disorder. There are pro’s and con’s for each option. Every person must make their own unique choice and decision.
- Understand the treatment options and tradeoffs
- Determine which treatment will work best for your child and your family
First, get educated. Open yourself up to options. Find out what works for you or for your child. Understand that everyone will have an opinion. However, you are the only one who knows what works for your child, for your family or for yourself. Next:
- Be self-aware and find the best resources
- Acknowledge what needs to be different
- Seek the right help. Interview the therapist or ADHD Coach
- Attend different support groups. Find where you fit best
- Work with the support group.
- Develop a partnership with the therapist or ADHD Coach
- Find the right Psychiatrist to help with medication
For parents looking for solutions for their child:
- Start with your Pediatrician or General Practitioner
- Bring information about the behaviors you’re noticing at home and at school
- Bring your questions
- Get recommendations about what you’ll need to do
Where Do I Begin When I Know I Want To Pursue ADHD Treatment Options
Obtain a diagnosis from a professional mental health provider who understands ADHD. Obtaining a diagnosis is important. A diagnosis includes:
- standardized clinical scales from the school, home and client
- as a thorough medical and family history
- Some practitioners will also include a child’s intelligence, aptitude, personality or processing skills evaluation.
If your Pediatrician or General Practitioner doesn’t perform ADHD diagnosis, ask for a referral.
For additional information on ADHD treatment for children, see The National Resource Center article on this topic.
Evidence demonstrates most of these treatments work well when someone with ADHD is also receiving medication management. All of these treatments are a personal choice. Use of medication is not mandatory to see a positive outcome and the benefits of other treatments.