• Adult ADHD: 10 Things You Should Know

    Adult ADHD: 10 Things You Should Know

    You probably know an adult with ADHD. Maybe it’s you, or your spouse or one of your grown children. The things you may not know about adult ADHD are that it can be a permanent condition that can damage relationships — and certain behaviors associated with ADHD can even shorten lives.

    For too long, ADHD was largely misunderstood. Initially, ADHD was something that “wasn’t a big deal,” or — worse — wasn’t real. Later, it was considered a childhood condition that people could just “grow out of.”

    Neither of those things is true. People with ADHD have brains that work differently, as shown by multiple research studies. But different doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” or “inferior.” The condition can be seen in many high achievers — including, according to multiple media reports, Walt Disney, billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates, and President John F. Kennedy. Some researchers say Leonardo da Vinci also struggled with the disorder. Da Vinci started many more projects than he finished, causing him to be fired by wealthy patrons who were disappointed in his inability to complete their commissions: It took him 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa.

    When harnessed, some characteristics of ADHD can actually be an advantage. A wandering mind can fuel creativity; restlessness can spur a desire for change, novelty and originality. According to his biographer Grigorio Vasari, da Vinci had the ability to focus intensely on both small details and grand concepts, such as the anatomy of muscles and helicopters, but flitted from project to project and lacked the organizational skills to see them through to completion.

    Sound familiar?

    While degrading those with ADHD as lazy or lacking willpower or intelligence is on the decline, there are still stigmas and disapproval for what is an inborn neurologic condition.

    Unfortunately, because of the embarrassment and shaming inflicted by society, people with ADHD do not always acknowledge the condition or seek treatments that could help them.

    Here are 10 things you should know about adult ADHD:

    1. Left untreated, ADHD can shorten lifespan by seven years.
    2. Untreated people diagnosed with ADHD are six times more likely to abuse substances.
    3. With proper medical management, ADHD medications can be very safe.
    4. Only 10% to 12% of people with ADHD are ever formally diagnosed, and it’s estimated that 3% to 6% of the world’s population has ADHD.
    5. Untreated ADHD can create significant relational stress for the afflicted person as well as their partner.
    6. The struggles faced by the partners of adults with ADHD can be overlooked, resulting in resentment and anger.
    7. ADHD medications are considered very effective for the majority of people.
    8. People with ADHD can hyperfocus on topics and activities of interest.
    9. People with ADHD often have a hard time sticking with long-term goals because their neurologic reward system functions differently.
    10. A child with ADHD will typically receive about 20,000 more negative appraisals directed at them as opposed to non-ADHD children. This can make them take a more negative view of both themselves and others.

    Whether you suspect you have ADHD, have a formal diagnosis or have a loved one who suffers from this condition, I encourage you to read the book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Second Edition by Russell Barkley. You may also want to connect with a couples, individual or family therapist who understands and is comfortable working with people impacted by ADHD. If that’s you — or someone you love — you can reach me through my website CouplesTherapyOrlando.com or by calling me at 407-579-2070.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.