Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is something we tend to associate with children. But the condition is lifelong and many adults will continue to experience symptoms throughout their lives.
According to Dr Tony Lloyd, CEO of the ADHD Foundation, the condition affects one in 20 children and a third of those children are still symptomatic as adults.
With adults in the public eye such as Jamie Oliver, Louis Smith and Simone Biles speaking about their ADHD, public knowledge about the condition is slowly increasing.
But ultimately, we still have a long way to go before we fully understand ADHD and end stigma attached to it once and for all.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is the name given to a group of behavioural symptoms that include hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
According to the NHS, the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but the condition has been shown to run in families.
Other factors linked to ADHD have been:
being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy)
having a low birthweight
smoking, alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy
The condition can occur in people with any level of intellectual ability and is more common in males than females.
Symptoms of ADHD
Because ADHD is a lifelong condition, Dr Lloyd says signs should have appeared in early childhood such as “difficulty in concentration, poor memory and impulsivity”.
“Because you have poor working memory, it can be difficult to hold all that important information in your head in order to make the right decisions, so sometimes you’ll say or do something impulsively, which can be quite problematic and challenging,” he tells HuffPost UK.
While hyperactivity is a common sign of ADHD in children, it tends to subside when the brain matures by the late teens.
“We do see some adults who are hyperactive though,” Dr Lloyd says. “It depends where they fall on the spectrum, as ADHD is a spectrum disorder like autism.”
Adults with ADHD may also display signs of “poor executive functioning skills”, which are characterised by the inability “to plan and organise your life”.
The stress associated with difficulty planning everyday activities means adults with ADHD are also prone to suffering from anxiety and depression.
If an adult thinks they may have ADHD, they can seek help by going to their GP.
The GP will then refer them to an adult psychologist, preferably a specialist in the area of ADHD.
The patient will have a number of sessions with the psychologist before receiving a diagnosis.
The psychologist will help them decide on the right treatment option for them, depending on how severe their ADHD is.
According to Dr Lloyd, finding the right treatment can make a huge difference to a person who has ADHD, helping them to “manage their life more successfully”, find “meaningful employment” and improve their mental health.
“The first one that most people talk about is medication which is incredibly effective and really does what it says on the bottle,” Dr Lloyd says.
“It really does improve concentration and helps regulate impulsivity.”
However, many adults with the condition learn how to self-manage and self-regulate their ADHD without medication.
Dr Lloyd says psycho-educative sessions can help people learn skills for self-management, planning and organising their life.
“Cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness-based therapy has also been proven to be very helpful in helping people to manage their ADHD,” he adds.
“While ADHD can be very challenging for some people, there are some really cost-effective and evidence-based treatments that can really make a difference to someone’s life and how they learn to live with that condition.”