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.
It is important to remember that feeling stressed is a normal response when things get busy.
The Stress Management Society explains that stress manifests in four main ways:
Many people manage stress by using techniques that work for them, including talking to friends, doing exercise or meditating. However, if stress becomes all-consuming and affects a person’s ability to function either at work or within relationships, they may need to seek help and talk to a therapist or a doctor.
Stress symptoms that might prompt someone to seek help include:
This structured type of counselling teaches specific skills to manage behaviour and change negative thinking patterns into positive ones.
Other types of therapy are also useful and can help people better manage their responses to situations. See our resource about different types of therapy to better understand the many different approaches.
This organisation has a test for stress, and practical tips on coping with stressful periods.
The UK’s leading charity for anxiety has good advice on coping with panic attacks, and a helpline for people who need support to cope with stress and anxiety.