Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:
The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.
Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).
Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.
ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.
In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.
We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:
The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:
ADHD has been linked to:
Making the diagnosis normally includes:
ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:
Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.
Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.
Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.
NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.
For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.
Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.
OCD describes a cyclical pattern of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that affects a person’s quality of life and ability to live normally.
OCD is a mental health problem that people can spend years learning to manage. Keeping your environment clean or tidy is not the same as OCD, and people with OCD might feel offended if people confuse the two.
If keeping your environment clean or tidy feels compulsive, is an ever-present preoccupation, affects your quality of life or stops you living normally (for example, working or spending time with loved ones), then cleaning might be a sign of OCD.
Intrusive thoughts, which form one part of the OCD cycle, are absolutely normal. What makes them part of an OCD presentation is an urge that follows, or a reaction to them that feels compulsive or out of control.
OCD can develop at any time in life, but tends to appear in puberty or adolescence. OCD is a chronic illness, but it can be managed and treated successfully, even if the first type of treatment does not work as well as hoped.
Current estimates suggest 1.2% of the population is affected by OCD.
OCD might be triggered by stress or anxiety but doesn’t have a cause, per se. OCD might develop during a stressful period but people with OCD also describe it appearing ‘out of the blue’ or ‘out of nowhere’.
Even if people are not sure why they have OCD or where it came from, they still have as much right to treatment as someone whose OCD follows a stressful experience. Therapists do not need to know where OCD comes from or why you think you might have it to treat it.
Many therapists specialise in treating OCD, and psychotherapy or talk therapy are a recommended treatment.
Exposure therapy helps people learn to cope with things that make them anxious throughout a very gradual, well-managed process. It is particularly well-suited to treating OCD.
Taking medication to manage anxiety can help a person manage OCD symptoms and also supports therapeutic work. SSRIs are one example of a common medical treatment for OCD symptoms.
David Adam's memoir of his experience of OCD became a Sunday Times bestseller after its publication.
A national OCD charity with good campaigns and resources on recovery.
A charity that provides information about OCD, and aims to improve rates of diagnosis in the UK.