In the past, Attention Deficit Disorder was believed to be a condition that affected children and some adolescents. Although it was known that children with ADHD were more likely to have difficulties in adulthood, clinicians usually diagnosed and treated these as other conditions. During the past two decades, we have recognized attention deficit disorder in older adolescents and adults.
The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder in adults can be a complex process. By definition, AD/HD is a condition that has its onset in childhood. Not everyone has an accurate recall of his or her early life. Often it is useful to get information from relatives, spouse or old school records.
As the child moves from adolescence to adulthood, the predominant symptoms of AD/HD tend to shift from external, visible ones (such as physical hyperactivity) to internal symptoms. There seems to be a decrease in observable symptoms of AD/HD with age. Although a given adult may not meet the full criteria for full AD/HD any longer, he or she may still experience significant impairment in certain aspects of life. Depending of professional or domestic situation, the adult may need to deal with more complex, abstract issues. A given individual's perception of his or her degree of impairment may vary.
Many adults were never correctly diagnosed, even when they were children. Sometimes this was because their main symptoms were inattention and impulsivity rather than physical hyperactivity. In other cases, the individual used his or her high intelligence or great determination to mask the AD/HD symptoms. Often this compensation occurred at great emotional cost. Many high-functioning individuals with AD/HD may harbor feelings of poor self-worth. They may see themselves as failures and feel that they constantly let others down. Over the years, the individual adapts to the situation. These adaptations, positive or negative, become part of one's personality, layered over the AD/HD symptoms. Many of these symptoms are also elements of codependency and intimacy dysfunctions resulting from childhood abandonment, emotional and / or sexual abuse. Symptoms
Adults with AD/HD are often bored with tedious, repetitive tasks. They may also trouble with planning and organization. Procrastination is common. Impulsivity may lead to frequent job changes, troubled romantic relationships, financial problems and a tendency to interrupt others. College students may have trouble staying focused on paperwork or lectures.
The AD/HD adult often becomes frustrated or angry rapidly, but may cool off equally quickly. He or she is then left wondering why everyone else is still upset at the blow up. Because of difficulties following through on commitments, the individual is often called selfish and immature.
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Around 8 million adults suffer from an adult form of ADHD. Often times in these cases, it has carried over from difficulties during the developmental years.