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.
After a traumatic event, people with PTSD may find themselves oversensitive to sudden noise or movement. PTSD is characterised by reliving what happened (in flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmare and panic attacks) and raised anxiety (feeling irritable, getting overwhelmed when reminded of the experience, loss of focus, feeling jumpy).
People with PTSD might also feel like the experience has changed their whole outlook – for example, feeling unable to trust or feel understood by anyone, or feel safe anywhere. They might also blame themselves, and have overwhelming feelings that are hard to know how to cope with safely.
A relatively new diagnosis, cPTSD is a separate PTSD diagnosis – often for people who survived a series of traumas, or a traumatic experience over a period of time. Alongside PTSD symptoms, people might also experience hopelessness and poor self-esteem, struggle to regulate their emotions, feel dissociated, or face suicidal thoughts. People might have cPTSD if they experienced prolonged or multiple traumas.
Not everyone with experience of trauma develops PTSD, and we don’t have a good understanding of the difference in recovery.
It is normal to feel anxious after trauma, but people who experience trauma are at increased risk of developing anxiety disorders, including PTSD.
If recovering from trauma is taking longer than expected, or has unusual features it may help to talk to a therapist – even if the symptoms turn out not to be PTSD or an anxiety disorder.
PTSD may come on straight after trauma, or it might have a delayed onset (weeks, months or years). But with treatment, PTSD can be treated and managed. The NHS advises seeking help for PTSD symptoms four weeks after a traumatic event.
The NHS estimates that one in three people who’ve survived traumatic experience have to cope with PTSD.
PTSD comes from traumatic experience, but people’s perception of what constitutes ‘trauma’ varies widely. People with PTSD have commonly survived experiences during which they realised they might die: war, conflict, assault, surgery, health emergencies and traumatic childbirth.
People who work in high-risk roles (e.g. forces, emergency services) are at greater risk of developing PTSD. People who have been through illegal migration, the asylum system or the care system are also thought to be at greater risk.
Therapy is a recommended treatment for PTSD.
A special form of CBT, trauma-focused CBT is a behavioural therapy that helps people adapt to life after a traumatic event.
A relatively new therapy, EMDR helps people talk very gradually about an experience of trauma in a safe, controlled environment, then uses eye movements to help ‘desensitise’ the memory of the experience.
Some people find that medication such as antidepressants helps reduce symptoms and support therapy for PTSD.
A mental health charity specifically for forces and veterans and their families.
A PTSD charity for the general public.