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Nov 26

Adult ADHD Brain


By Brian Wu, Ph.D.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common yet complex mental disorder, which can adversely affect a persons work, schooling, or interpersonal relationships. The symptoms of ADHD vary from case to case and are difficult to recognize. Though it is typically diagnosed in childhood, there are many adults with ADHD. While it may have only been diagnosed later in life, most adults with ADHD have shown symptoms since childhood.

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined. Inattentive ADHD typically means a person is showing enough symptoms of inattention and is easily distracted, but isn’t necessarily hyperactive or impulsive. In contrast to this is the Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, which occurs when a person has symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness but not inattention. A person with Combined ADHD shows enough symptoms of impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness.

The first, and possibly most noticeable symptom type is inattention. A person can be diagnosed as inattentive if they are easily distracted, forgetful in daily activities, or have trouble organizing. Those who have Inattentive ADHD tend to have trouble focusing on tasks or activities that require long periods of mental focus, such as class work or routine tasks.They tend to make careless mistakes in their work, and become easily sidetracked. Inattentive ADHD patients may ignore speakers, even when being directly spoken to, and may not follow instructions. This inattentiveness manifests itself in different ways for different people.

Though we often think of people with ADHD as having lack of focus, an unexpected sign of ADHD is hyperfocus. People with ADHD may become so enveloped in a task that they neglect the world around them. This can lead to losing track of time and neglecting friendships or relationships.

Someone with ADHD may have trouble with organization, things may seem to be constantly “falling out of place”. They may have trouble keeping track of their tasks or prioritizing their time.

People with Inattentive ADHD tend to have a routine of being forgetful. They may consistently misplace small items or forget important dates. In professional settings or relationships, this can be mistaken for carelessness, and can lead to trouble.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
The other symptom types are hyperactivity and impulsivity, which tend to be clumped together. A person may be diagnosed as hyperactive or impulsive if they talk excessively, constantly interrupt others, have trouble engaging in quiet activities, and blurt out answers before the question has been finished. Those with hyperactive or impulsive ADHD also appear to be always on the go, they may squirm in their seats, tap their hands or feet, and be impatient waiting in lines. This restless activity can lead to anxiety, as the mind constantly replays missed opportunities or worrisome events such as incomplete tasks. Impulsivity often rears it’s head in shopping habits. People with adult ADHD may have a tendency to impulse buy items they can’t afford.

Other Factors

Emotional instability tends to be a factor for those for ADHD. It may seem like they are on an emotional roller coaster. They may become easily bored and look to distract and entertain themselves. Small frustrations may be blown out of proportion and lead to anxiety and depression.

Due to many of these polarizing factors, Adults with ADHD are usually hypercritical of themselves. They may view things outside of the realm of their control as “their fault”, taking blame and small failures to heart in the worst way. This can lead to a poor self image, which in turn can cause problems in work or social relationships.

The problems people with ADHD experience in relationships are often due to their symptoms. The undesirable traits of talking over people, inattentiveness, and easily being bored can take their toll on relationships, as a person can come across as insensitive or uncaring.

Other signs typical of adults with ADHD are higher use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco (trying to calm the nervous symptoms), changing employers often, and repeated negative relationship patterns.

The symptoms of ADHD can range from mild to severe, depending upon environment and physiology. Some people are mildly inattentive with tasks they don’t enjoy, yet excel at those that they do enjoy. Others may have an inability to focus on all tasks, whether they enjoy them or not. This can have a drastically negative impact on them in social situations, at work or in schooling. There is a tendency for symptoms to be more severe in unstructured environments, such as social settings. Symptoms are typically less severe in controlled environments where rewards are given for good behavior, such as in the workplace. Having other conditions, such as depression or a learning disability, may worsen the symptoms of ADHD.

Before you diagnose yourself or others with ADD or ADHD, discuss all symptoms with your doctor. Include length of time with these symptoms as well as severity, and remember that other disabilities may play a role into the behaviors you are noticing. Being well informed is the first step towards treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with Adult ADHD, behavioral therapy may begin to help you with getting organized and completing tasks. Talk to your health care provider and get informed about your next step.

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