FAQs on Adult ADHD
There are so many misconceptions about adult ADHD. Some of the most frequently asked questions about Adult ADHD, as well as comments and misconceptions about it are discussed by ur psychologists below:
- I am very distracted lately and worry that I am developing ADHD. But I wasn’t diagnosed as a child- is that possible?
Psychologist’s response: Of course it’s possible! Many people don’t get diagnosed with ADHD until later in life. However, if symptoms are showing up for the first time later in life, we may want to rule out another cause, such as anxiety and stress, or simply the normal signs of aging that we all experience, such as a less effective working memory (recall for what we just heard).
- Don’t people grow out of ADHD?
Psychologist’s response: The symptoms of ADHD are present over the life-span, beginning in childhood. As people grow and mature, the presentation (symptoms) may change. For example, as a child, a young student may have difficulty sitting in class. In adulthood, the person may have learned that if they did not stay seated during a meeting, they would be fired. So, the person may stay seated but may fidget, tap a foot or hand, or may fiddle with papers. It doesn’t just ‘go away’- instead, it must be managed and worked at to change.
- Isn’t ADHD just a crutch for adults?
Psychologist’s response: Absolutely not. ADHD is a medical condition that has been confirmed with fMRI (functional MRI), which identifies lower levels of activity in the pre-frontal lobes of the brain. Individuals who have been confirmed with fMRI and are treated with medication for ADHD (that boosts dopamine levels in the pre-frontal lobes of the brain) show increased activity in the pre-frontal areas of the brain and demonstrate improved symptoms. We know which areas of the brain, and which pathways in the brain, perform specific functions. We know what limitations we will see in a person’s functioning if these areas and pathways are impacted by ADHD, and can therefore identify and diagnose ADHD based on a thorough history and, at times, cognitive and neuropsychological tests.The other issue that arises is that the areas of the brain impacted by ADHD may impair a person’s ability to initiate boring or more difficult tasks. Someone can be extremely intelligent but may have under-performed in school due to difficulty with working memory, focus and attention, or planning and organizing. This may lead to instructors, bosses, or family members misinterpreting what is happening and deciding that the adult with ADHD is just lazy or looking for an excuse. This is very unfortunate as it is not accurate.
- If someone can sit for four hours in front of a computer game, how could they possibly have ADHD?
Psychologist’s response: People with ADHD may have issues with divided attention (paying attention to more than one thing at a time), interrupting attention (being hyper-focused on one thing and tuning everything else out), or switching attention (getting hyper-focused on one thing, particularly if interesting or rewarding, and having trouble breaking away from it). The other issue is that it can be very difficult for people with ADHD to maintain focus on low-interest tasks. Computer games are high interest and provide instant feed-back or a reward.
- Is this just an excuse for lack of will power, or a sign of poor motivation?
Psychologist’s response: ADHD is thought of as a disorder of executive function that involves the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Executive function helps a person to initiate tasks. When this area of the brain is underactive, whether due to ADHD or an injury or other medical condition, it becomes very difficult to initiate tasks, particularly those that require considerable effort. For example, students with ADHD may find it very difficult or nearly impossible to get started on that term paper until last minute. In the case of people with ADHD, this not a character flaw. It has to do with the wiring of the brain and is treatable when properly diagnosed.
- Isn’t the only way to diagnose ADHD to have a brain scan?
Psychologist’s response: Let’s hear from the experts in the field. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association frown upon practitioners who claim that the best way to diagnose and treat ADHD is through expensive brain scans. Many scholarly articles have been written on this, pointing out that any trained and qualified neurologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, or doctor of clinical psychology should be able to properly diagnosis ADHD. This is done by getting a thorough history of development, symptoms, and impact on function, and at times cognitive and neuropsychological testing that measures the function of each area of the brain.
- I have been told there are seven kinds of ADHD. Is this true?
This is not true, and is a marketing technique aimed at convincing people to have expensive and unnecessary brain scans. More accurately, we have identified a number of neuropathways and areas in the brain that have been found to be involved in causing the symptoms of ADHD. But there are not seven kinds of ADHD.
- I had coffee and it did not put me to sleep, so I am certain I do not have ADHD.
Psychologist’s response: This one is fiction. In general, everyone will become more alert and focused when they consume a stimulant such as caffeine, regardless of whether they have ADHD or not. Many but not all medications for ADHD contain a stimulant. The medications that treat ADHD increase the action of dopamine in the pre-frontal lobes of the brain.
- I am not “Hyper.” Isn’t my diagnosis ADD instead of ADHD?
Psychologist’s response: Not exactly. The official, internationally accepted standard diagnosis is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, followed by one of three types or descriptions: 1. Primarily Inattentive Type (difficulty with focus and attention), 2. Primarily Impulsive Type (difficulty with fidgeting or impulsively saying or doing things), or 3. Combined Type (both inattention and impulsivity).
- Can’t people just learn to deal with ADHD so that they don’t need medication?
Psychologist’s response: Through behavioral modification and counseling, much can be done. However, in some cases medication might be needed. It’s best to come in for a diagnosis and then we can discuss treatment options.