I Think I Have ADHD. Now what?
Do you ever feel stuck or overwhelmed because you cannot meet the everyday demands of life? Do you find yourself looking at others and questioning how they are able to juggle so much with ease? Does the idea of having an organized home or office seem completely unrealistic for you? Are you struggling with poor memory, focus, and concentration? Are your relationships and/or friendships suffering from your inability to keep up with commitments? Do you thrive in a world of controlled chaos but then feel easily upset at the same time? Perhaps people have jokingly said to you that you must have ADHD! Well, maybe it’s true.
If you found yourself saying, YES to the above questions I hope you find relief knowing you are not alone! According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, (DSM-5), the essential feature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
To further understand if this applies to you please keep reading to learn more about how this neurological condition impacts our executive functioning.
In the past six months have you experienced difficulties related to inattention at work, home or in your social setting because of any of the following?
Are you careless? Overlooking or missing important details? Failing to submit or turn in inaccurate work?
Do you have trouble staying focused throughout meetings or conversations? Do you read a paragraph and then need to read it again because your mind was elsewhere?
Are you easily distracted during a conversation, even when being spoken to directly?
Do you start tasks and then lose your focus; perhaps you rarely finish? Are you easily sidetracked?
Are you disorganized and messy? Do you miss deadlines?
Do you avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort like paperwork or reviewing lengthy reports?
Are you frequently searching for everyday items like your phone, glasses, or keys?
Are you easily distracted by random things (movement, sound, voices)? Does your mind frequently wander?
Do you find yourself forgetful in daily activities like returning calls, keeping appointments, or paying bills?
If you said, YES, YES, YES to several of those questions, let's keep going to see if you relate to any associated hyperactive or impulsive qualities too.
Do you find it difficult to be still? Are you often fidgeting, or taping your hands or feet? Maybe you squirm in your chair a bunch?
Is it hard to stay seated when you are expected to during class or meetings?
Do you feel restless or on edge most of the time?
Are quiet activities like sitting through presentations or movies painful for you?
Are you always on the go? Does being still for extended periods of time make you feel uncomfortable?
Have you been told you talk too much or even at inappropriate times?
Perhaps you ignore or miss normal social cues and interrupt others?
Is it difficult for you to wait your turn while inline or in traffic?
Are you intrusive? Do you insert yourself into conversations or activities otherwise not related to you?
If you continued answering YES to all my questions, keep reading for a better understanding of ADHD. Guess what, if you only related to one segment of questions keep reading because you might be in for a surprise. If this article does not apply to you I am fairly confident you’ve thought of two or three people in your life that fit this description to a tee!
So what exactly is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
The American Psychiatric Association released its newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013, (DSM-5) which identifies three types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
ADHD, inattentive type: This is often referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD (no hyperactivity included). If you were screaming, “YES, this is ME” to the first set of questions but not the second, you could possibly be experiencing this presentation of ADHD. These individuals typically present as very forgetful, easily distracted, and have a hard time paying attention.
ADHD, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity type: If you felt like someone finally understands what it feels like to be in your skin while you were reading the second question set there is a good chance this applies to you. These individuals typically struggle to finish tasks and perhaps find themselves distracted by meaningless projects that consume their entire day while important deadlines are quickly approaching. They have poor focus, frequently daydream, and often lose things. They also need to MOVE!
ADHD combined type: If BOTH question sets apply to you, guess what……. this could be you!
Okay… so now what?
Now that we have an understanding of what ADHD really is and the undesirable effect it can have on one’s work, home, and social life, what can we do about it?
Seeking proper diagnosis is key.
If you suspect Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is preventing you from thriving please see a qualified medical professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, primary care physician) for an evaluation. The evaluation should include a clinical interview, a review of your psychiatric and medical history as well as your family history! ADHD is suggested to be genetic!
There are a variety of rating scales that may be used to evaluate the severity of your symptoms. In some cases, your family, educators, and/or colleagues might be required to complete rating scales as well. It is important to note, that if you are seeking accommodations at work or school (especially at the collegiate level) you will most likely need to have a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation by a trained psychologist who specializes in testing cognitive and behavioral functioning.
Once I have been diagnosed with ADHD what can I expect?
The treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is individualized to each person's needs. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to ADHD treatment. It is important for you to have an idea of what you are comfortable with when discussing treatment options with your provider. Standard treatment of ADHD in adults includes medication, lifestyle modifications, and therapy.
The two medication types to treat ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulants are the most frequently prescribed medications because they are fast-acting. They produce results by “stimulating” activity in the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain which in turn improves focus and decreases hyperactivity. Stimulant medication can be divided into three categories based on its duration of action short-acting, intermediating-acting, and long-acting. Adderall (Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine) and Ritalin (Methylphenidate) are a few examples of stimulant medication.
At this time the only FDA-approved ADHD-specific non-stimulant medication is Strattera (Atomoxetine). Strattera affects chemicals in the brain that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It is approved for children, teenagers, and adults. Strattera builds up in your system over time so it is important to be consistent with taking this medication.
The FDA has also approved Intuniv (Guanfacine) and Kapvay (Clonidine) and recently Qelbree (Viloxazine) for children ages 6 to 17. However, in some cases, adults who are intolerant of stimulant medications have achieved the benefit of ADHD symptoms with Guanfacine and Clonidine. These medications help by decreasing distractibility and improving attention and impulsive control.
Wellbutrin XL (Bupropion) is an antidepressant that is sometimes used off-label to treat ADHD in adults. This norepinephrine dopamine reuptake inhibitor helps improve focus and concentration. The use of Wellbutrin XL is a great choice for people who cannot tolerate first-line treatment or for someone who suffers from both depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Finding the right medication and the right dose varies from person to person. It is important for you to work closely with your provider and have patience during the process. If your medication is not helping, don’t give up.
Working with a therapist can help you understand the ways ADHD is negatively impacting your life and help you develop strategies to manage your life more effectively. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise are additional ways you can improve how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is impacting your life.
If you made it to the end of this article and feel like you gained a new friend because someone finally understands what your life is like, please know you are not alone. Life is a balancing act for any adult but living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder makes everything a bit more of a struggle. Take a moment now to forgive yourself for your disorganization, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity.
Sometimes receiving a diagnosis of ADHD provides a sense of relief because it allows people to understand the reasons for their challenges. On the bright side, no matter how overwhelming living with ADHD feels, with treatment symptoms can become manageable. It is never too late to start living life more effectively.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, we invite you to contact us today for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. Our psychiatric medication provider, Crystal Adkins, can help you gain clarity on whether you have ADHD and what you can do to better manage the symptoms. You deserve to live a healthy, happy life so let us help you get there.
Our offices are located in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, and Plantation, Florida (coming soon). We also provide online counseling via a secure telehealth platform for those living in the state of Florida. We look forward to speaking with you!