Can Adults Have ADHD?
Patricia Zifferblatt | December 1, 2004

The short answer is yes--adults can have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the November-December 2004 issue of The FDA Consumer, a publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the front cover announces, “ADHD, Not Just for Kids Anymore.” This announcement is both a vindication for those people who have ADHD (including myself, undiagnosed, from as early as I can remember) and were placed in a “special category” by society and also for the teachers, health practitioners, and employers who didn’t know what to do with these unusual people.

“ADHD,” according to the article, “is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children.” This disorder is usually diagnosed after a child has started school--the teacher notices emotional outbursts, inability to sit still in class, and a tendency to talk to everyone about everything without restraint.

ADHD is typically dealt with in several ways:
  • Some children are able to deal with their ADHD when their parents adopt a more natural diet without additives, preservatives, refined sugar, and including some herbal preparations such as passion flower.
  • Some children improve in the years after puberty and learn how to control their behavior.
  • Some children, after medical consultation, need to be medicated in order to stay in the mainstream of life.
Where should I start?

A correct diagnosis is very important before trying to help a child or an adult who shows some of the symptoms of ADHD. Here are some of the symptoms of the disorder:
  • Has difficulty paying attention and is easily distracted
  • Does not pay close attention to details and makes careless mistakes
  • Does not seem to hear what is being said
  • Does not follow through on projects or finish tasks
  • Avoids tasks that require concentration
  • Forgets possessions, appointments, etc.
  • Fidgets and squirms when seated and can’t sit still for any length of time
  • Exhibits signs of restlessness
  • Acts as if driven and on the go most of the time
  • Talks constantly, interrupts, blurts out questions and answers, and can’t wait until his or her turn
Any of the above symptoms should be evaluated by a qualified health professional before beginning any program or medication regime. Most of these behaviors are exhibited by children at some time or another, so it’s important to make the distinction between, for instance, normal childhood fidgeting in unexciting situations and the uncontrollable, constant fidgeting of ADHD.

Not all children are created equal--what works for one child does not work for another. But then, a child grows up and becomes an adult--an adult in a world where he or she is still trying to make it, yet not knowing how to make this happen.

Can a person with ADHD succeed in life?

Absolutely! As an example, let me tell you my story:

I was kicked out of high school three times, because I was always gazing out the window, fidgeting in my seat, and talking, talking, talking. When I was younger, I was smart. I could pass tests easily, but I disrupted the classes. While I was still in grade school, the teachers told my parents that “If Patricia would concentrate, she’d do much better in classes.”

What they didn’t know was that I hadn’t yet learned to concentrate, sit still, and follow through on projects. So I was labeled throughout my life as “a bit hyper and difficult.” And I knew how to push my teacher’s buttons, which only made matters worse!

I had to learn as I got older that I was responsible for my behavior, and I had to find different ways to channel my energies. And I have been very successful in life.

I’ve learned throughout the years that ADHD can run in families. My 87-year-old brother has been diagnosed with a form of ADHD and has been medicated for years, and being the good mother that I like to be, I passed my ADHD on to my children and my grandchildren!

Many ADHD people are very bright and successful once they learn how to live in society and channel their God-given energies. According to an expert interviewed for this article, “In adults, it’s a much more elaborate disorder than in children. It’s more than paying attention and controlling impulses.”

What should I do if I think my child may have ADHD--or that I might have it?

Here are some helpful tips to follow:
  • Get a professional diagnosis, since there are many types of ADHD.

  • If you are an adult with ADHD, attend a cognitive behavior program and learn the techniques that can help you live a good life and control your behavior.

  • Start doing what you like to do best, because when you’re doing something you like, it’s easier to concentrate and complete the job.

  • Yoga and progressive relaxation classes can help quiet down the impulsiveness many of us with ADHD experience on a regular basis.

  • Learn how proper diet and exercise can help in the management of ADHD.

  • Learn about supplements that can help:
    - Vitamin B, the anti-stress vitamin
    - Omega-3 fatty acids for the depression that may accompany ADHD
    - Passion flower for a calming effect
    - Siberian ginseng that can help with focusing
    - And valerian for a good night’s sleep

  • If necessary, don’t be afraid to start a medication after consulting with a qualified health professional--you wouldn’t hesitate to take insulin if you were diabetic, would you?
Personally and in all honesty, I’ve had to start medicating for my ADHD this past year, so I know a little about making that monumental decision. In the spring of 2004, I had an experience that led me to seek and find a great doctor who has really helped me. The way I see it is this: I’ve made it through 72 years without meds, so now that I’m approaching my “good old years” I don’t mind a pill or two to help me make it for the next 72 years with enjoyment! Of course this is my personal decision, and you’re entitled to make yours.

I encourage everyone concerned to learn more about ADHD in both children and adults. For additional information about the article I have referred to in The FDA Consumer, log onto www.fda.gov/fdac. If you or someone you know wants to find a health professional in your community to help with a diagnosis, contact the local American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians, or your local mental health clinic.
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