October is ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder) Awareness month, but I wanted to start the month a little bit early. I wanted to bring awareness and advocacy to a group that is not usually associated with ADHD – the adult with ADHD - because I am one of the small group who deal with the disorder on a daily basis.
ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. It is also an adult disorder. Some kids can outgrow their ADHD as they get older, but some kids are not as lucky as adults. According to the CDC, the prevalence of ADHD in the U.S. adult population is 4.4% compared to the 9.4% with the pediatric population. Within that small group, 38% are women and 62% are men. The numbers are diagnoses of adult ADHD are growing with more awareness and improved screening. Most adults diagnosed are parents of children with ADHD who were not diagnosed with ADHD as a child.
Sadly the one group that tends not be diagnosed are girls and women. We tend to not draw attention to teachers, parents, or other professionals. We are the ones who have the hyperactive type that tends to draw attention by getting into trouble or running around the classroom. We are the one who are shy, written off as depressed or just not being as organized and on top of our homework as others. As adults, women with ADHD tend to be overwhelmed and exhausted with normal household chores, organization, and keeping track of money. Women also tended to feel depressed and/or anxious on top of having ADHD. We are the emotional eaters and heavy drinkers. We have problems with sleeping. We have feelings of low self-esteem.
Overall, adults in ADHD – especially those who are undiagnosed – deal with very difficult issues when their disorder is not well managed. They have trouble keeping track of appointments or tasks that they are working on. Chores do not get done and bills go unpaid. They have issues with developing healthy relationships because they are constantly forgetting important dates, make good on promise, and have a short fuse from being frustrated. They are often worried and stressed about meeting goals and responsibilities. They also have a hard time holding down a job because they are getting fired or constantly quitting their job.
It is important to meet with a mental health professional that understands and can make a proper diagnosis for ADHD. People assume that medication is the only answer for treating ADHD. Psychotherapy, behavior intervention, education and training are available as part of a treatment plan. ADHD is also a protected disorder under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA). It is important to ask for accommodations for your job if you need them like wearing earplugs, working with a quiet office away from audible and visual distractions, and receiving written instructions.
If you need the help, ask for it. You are not alone.