The diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is common amongst children. However, many adults do not realize they may have it too.
There are two subtypes -- hyperactive-impulsive, and inattentive -- but, just as with children, adults can have symptoms of both.
Diagnosis can be difficult. This is especially true if the adult has learned coping skills over the years to handle their attention/focus issues. It can also be true if the adult has other conditions such as sleep problems, depression/anxiety disorder, substance abuse, or high stress in their life distracting them.
There is no laboratory test that can be performed. Many health care providers rely on experience, the interaction with the patient (and family members if they attend the visit) and questionnaires designed for ADD/ADHD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of ADD/ADHD include:
- Inability to focus
- Inability to follow through on a task
- Starting several tasks and not completing them
- Forgetting tasks
- Forgetting directions
- Distracted easily
- Distracted during conversations
- Excessively talkative
- Often interrupts during conversations
- Impulsive in activities
- Inability to keep a job or switching jobs frequently
- Multiple relationships
- Multiple driving violations
- Write-ups at work or warnings
- Easily feeling overwhelmed
Living with someone who has ADD or ADHD can be frustrating and entertaining at the same time. There is an excellent documentary called, “ADD and Loving It?!” where comedian Patrick McKenna (who has ADHD) learns more about this condition with the help of various health care experts and researchers.
At one point he and his wife are going through a common ADHD questionnaire and the symptom of impulsivity comes up. He states that he is not impulsive until she reminds him of the time she sent him to the grocery store and he came home with a new truck.
A recent patient summed up his ADHD in the way that he cooks. He reports that he will be putting away groceries, filling a pot of water in the sink, turning on the stove, having the refrigerator door open, unloading the dishwasher and he never quite finishes any task in a normal fashion.
Take hope that there is help.
For some people, medication for attention is quite literally the “magic pill” to calm the brain, to help them focus and to complete tasks. However there are some side effects to discuss with your health care provider.
Others who choose not to take medication need to seek counseling with someone who is proficient in ADD/ADHD. This can help them to find coping mechanisms in order to work, live and survive their life, not ruin their job or their relationships.
Anecdotally, many with attention issues find that their symptoms are much improved with good sleep, regular exercise and a healthy, low-sugar diet, all the while managing stress.
If you feel that you might have ADD or ADHD, talk with your health care provider today.
Leithard, L. and Freeborn, D. A Practical Guide for Diagnosing Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Web. 2 December, 2013. Retrieved from
Mayo Clinic. Attention-Deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children: Symptons. Web. 2 December, 2013. Retrieved from
Reviewed December 4, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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