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.
Commonly called a fear of going out, for example leaving home, people who feel agoraphobic sometimes also report a fear being trapped or being in a place that they can’t leave.
A common phobia, claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces. Like agoraphobia, severe claustrophobia might stop a person from leaving home and going to work if, for example, driving, taking a train or lift makes them anxious.
Fear of being attacked by an animal can prevent people leaving home, and feel a huge loss of control over what they see, hear, read or watch if even the mention of an animal attack triggers symptoms.
Fear of healthcare can prevent people getting the help and care they need to stay well.
It might be possible to avoid flying, but for people with a fear of flying, fears about loved ones who fly – or even about planes flying near them – can be upsetting and isolating.
For some people, public events such as family events, weddings, and work conferences create massive anxiety. People with social phobia feel unreasonably anxious about embarrassing themselves, or being humiliated, in front of people they know.
People with a phobia experience unreasonable anxiety around the thing they feel phobic about. For some people, even hearing or talking about something is terrifying. Some people with phobias cannot think about the thing they’re afraid of.
In these cases, phobias give people anxiety symptoms, such as:
People with phobias might attempt to control the anxiety by avoiding triggers (thinking, talking about or being in or near the subject of the phobia). It is also common for people with phobias to use alcohol to self-medicate. Phobias can feel shameful or embarrassing, which might prevent people seeking treatment. People might also avoid treatment if they think that treatment will force them towards the subject of the phobia.
Everyone is scared of something, and some of us are more scared than others. But if fear feels unmanageable or unreasonable (for example, if fear is making it harder to work or leave the house), a person might need the support of a therapist to manage how they’re feeling.
Phobias can be cured, and might resolve on their own in rare circumstances. But they are stressful and painful, and can be incredibly debilitating.
According to the NHS, phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety UK estimates that 2.4% of adults in the UK currently live with a phobia.
Phobias tend to be linked to anxiety and mental health in general, so increased stress in life can increase the risk of a phobia developing or returning.
New research raises the possibility of a link between tranquilisers (e.g. sleeping pills, benzodiazepines) or long-term alcohol use and the onset of agoraphobia.
Phobias can be cured with therapy, medication, or both.
CBT can help people with phobias develop awareness of their fear, and how it feels when it rises. This can make it easier to question, slow down or divert the anxiety, a skill that grows over time.
Like OCD, exposure therapy shows good results for many people struggling with phobias.
Antidepressants (such as SSRIs) can help people cope with the symptoms of phobias – particularly social phobia.
A UK charity that runs group therapy for people to treat phobias or maintain recovery.