What is Adult ADHD or Adult ADD?

ADHD is the acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also called ADD or attention deficit disorder. It is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and is not uncommon in adulthood. Adults with ADD or ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors and may be overly active. It also is common for adults with ADHD to experience low self-esteem, difficulty at work or school, and to have trouble in relationships. Dr. Kathleen Yen, adult psychiatrist, treats patients from Bellaire, West University and from the Houston area who have ADHD.

Can Adults have ADHD?

Although symptoms for ADHD often start in early childhood, some cases of ADHD are not recognized or diagnosed until the person is an adult. In fact, many adults with ADHD aren’t aware they have this disorder. Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to process information, focus, and prioritize tasks which may lead to forgotten meetings, missing deadlines or social plans. Some adults with ADHD may find themselves having mood swings or outbursts of anger. Simple tasks like waiting in line or driving through traffic can cause extreme impatience.

What are symptoms of Adult ADHD?

The Symptoms for Adult ADD or ADHD may not be as clear as the symptoms in children. ADHD and ADD symptoms in adults include:

  • Problems prioritizing tasks
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Poor time management skills
  • Trouble focusing on a task
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Inability or difficulty with multitasking
  • Excessive activity
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Irrational outburst of temper
  • Low tolerance for routine tasks
  • Road rage
  • Trouble following through with plans or tasks
  • Trouble coping with stress or stressful situations
  • Disorganization
  • Trouble sleeping

What causes Adult ADHD?

The exact causes of adult ADHD are currently unknown. However, Scientists and researchers who are studying ADD and ADHD in adults have found that genetics play an important role in both childhood ADHD and adult ADHD. Studies have recently shown links between siblings and between twins which link genetics to ADHD. Other possible risk factors for adult ADHD can include:

  • Having ADHD as a child
  • Brain injury
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to lead or other environmental toxins at a young age
  • Maternal drug, alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy

Are there types of Adult ADHD?

ADHD is classified into three different types, depending on which symptoms are the strongest in the individual. These include:

  • Inattentive Presentation is usually characterized by the following:

    • Difficulty organizing or finishing a task
    • Lacks attention to detail
    • Inability to follow instructions or conversation
    • Easily distracted
    • Forgets details of daily routines
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation is characterized by:

    • Inability to sit still for long periods of time (at meetings or meals)
    • Constant fidgeting
    • Talks a lot
    • Restlessness
    • Trouble with impulsive behaviors
    • Frustration when waiting in lines or driving in traffic
    • Angry outburst
    • Frequent injuries or accidents
  • Combined Presentation – Is usually a combination of the above two types and can have one or many symptoms of each.

How is Adult ADHD or Adult ADD Diagnosed?

Due to the expansive nature of the symptoms of ADHD and as with the many similar symptoms that occur with other disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose adult ADHD. Some disorders like anxiety, depression or other conditions share the same symptoms, and patients in the Houston area may have similar conditions. Therefore, the first steps to a proper diagnosis of Adult ADHD is a comprehensive psychiatric exam by Dr. Yen. She will also conduct a checklist for rating ADHD symptoms and a thorough patient history. Dr. Yen will rule out other disorders and can determine the best treatment options for adults with ADD or ADHD.

How is Adult ADHD Treated?

Dr. Yen is able to successfully treat adults with ADHD with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Successful treatment may include the following:

  • Medication – Dr. Yen can prescribe medicine that works with the patient’s body to alleviate the symptoms of Adult ADHD
  • Talk Therapy – Understanding your symptoms and learning how to deal with them can help Adults with ADHD
  • Skills training – Learning skills to implement at work and in one’s personal life can help patients focus and adapt better to their environments
  • Healthy eating habits – Nutrition can play a part in ADHD, especially when dealing with the symptoms of ADHD
  • Monitor “screen time” – Limiting the amount of time spent on phones, computers and in front of the TV can help with ADHD, ADD and other psychiatric disorders
  • Sleep – Getting the recommended amount of sleep can also help Adults with ADHD to manage their symptoms better

For more information on an Adult ADHD or Adult ADD as well as the treatment options available, please contact the office of Dr. Kathleen Yen, Adult Psychiatrist serving Bellaire, West University and the Houston, Texas area.  

Does too much caffeine or sugar cause Adult ADHD?

Although too much sugar and/or caffeine can cause restlessness or a surge in blood sugar, research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by excessive consumption of either substance. Dr. Yen will warn her patients, however that ingesting too much sugar or caffeine can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD and should be consumed in moderation.

What if Adult ADHD goes untreated?

Some childhood symptoms of ADHD may fade with age, however ADHD can be a lifetime problem. Adults who don’t receive proper treatment for ADD or ADHD may have trouble with the following:

  • Getting a job
  • Keeping a job
  • Getting to work on time
  • Completing tasks on a deadline
  • Staying organized
  • Getting along with other adults and co-workers
  • Accepting criticism calmly

Some research has shown that as many as 40% of the people in prison have adult ADHD, many who are undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated Adult ADHD can have a greater impact on self-esteem, depression and lead to higher rates of divorce. Risky behaviors can harm adults with untreated ADHD including:

  • Drinking, smoking or drug abuse
  • Risky sexual activity
  • Gambling addiction or problems
  • Trouble with law enforcement
  • Car accidents

Do more men or women have adult ADHD?

Studies show that more men are diagnosed with adult ADHD than women. In adults over the age of 19, 1.6 times as many men are diagnosed with adult ADHD in comparison to 1 times as many in women.

Are symptoms of Adult ADHD worse in women?

Clinically, the symptoms of adult ADHD are similar in men and in women. however, there are different outcomes between men and women, which can vary drastically. For instance, adult men with ADHD tend to have more problems with anger, behavioral issues and car accidents. Women are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.

Furthermore, societal “norms” place a bigger burden on women with ADHD when they are expected to be the at-home organizer, planner and parent. Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, organizing household chores, and keeping track of events can be difficult for a woman with ADHD.