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Attention Deficit Disorder

 Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) has received much attention in recent years as more and more children have been diagnosed with the condition. The symptoms and difficulties associated with Attention Deficit Disorder in children have been publicized and documented extensively as public awareness of the condition has risen. However, not as much has been written or said about the very real problems experienced by adults who suffer from ADD. This is truly unfortunate, because estimates are that between 12 to 20 million adults in the United States are dealing with the effects of ADD and often are unaware of either the nature of the condition or how to approach treating it.

Many adults who suffer from ADD have difficulty even explaining the experience of living with the condition. There are, however, a number of symptoms which are clearly recognizable. These include:

  • chronic forgetfulness
  • a sense of under-achievement
  • a tendency to procrastinate
  • taking on multiple projects at one time
  • trouble following through on any given project
  • intolerance of boredom
  • mood swings
  • a history of hyperactivity

There are other symptoms, but all have a similar theme: general restlessness and overall difficulty with activities requiring sustained concentration.

One of the main reasons why Attention Deficit Disorder in adults has not received the notoriety it has in children has to do with the fact that the symptoms often are seen as less severe or troublesome for adults. Many adults who suffer from ADD will have developed their own strategies for dealing with the problems it creates for them by the time they reach adulthood. For example, they will learn to always put their car keys in the same place, because they know that they will lose them if they do not. These strategies have the effect of masking the symptoms of ADD from the outside world. While this limits the problems the condition might cause, it makes diagnosis of ADD that much more difficult.

Another factor which has obscured the problem of ADD in adults is the complexity of differentiating it from other psychiatric conditions. Once a correct diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder has been made, then comes the question of how best to treat it.

Behavioral modification is the most important and vital element of any treatment process for ADD. People can be taught specific strategies for dealing the with the troubling aspects of the condition and reducing the problems it causes. One of the most important aspects of a behavior modification program is establishment of firm routines in the daily schedule. Without routines, the person with ADD can often flounder haphazardly from task to task, completing nothing.

Attention Deficit Disorder can also be treated with medication, and most experts agree that the most effective treatment regimens will include drug therapy. In most cases a stimulant such as Ritalin is prescribed. This may seem contradictory until it is understood that the cause of ADD is actually under-activity of certain areas of the brain. The stimulant medication allows the brain to become active enough so the person with ADD can focus more easily on one thing at a time. Other medications, including anti-depressants, have been found to be effective in treating ADD as well.

Many people are relieved to discover that the problems that have plagued them, in some cases all of their lives, are the result of a treatable condition and can be addressed. However, Dr. Hammerbeck warns that often after this initial relief comes a period of intense grief over the time lost to the condition. It is typical to wonder what life might have been like had the condition been diagnosed earlier and treatment started sooner. Since Attention Deficit Disorder had only recently been identified as a discrete condition, adults who suffer with it have done so without any understanding of their problem for many years. ADD is not a condition that begins in adulthood. Adults with ADD were children with ADD. Frustration is certainly understandable.

Adults with ADD tend to be drawn to professions that are highly stimulating and offer a constantly changing environment. Therefore, it is not unusual to find a large number of individuals with ADD clustered in the same profession.

If you feel that you are experiencing many of the symptoms of ADD, it is important to know that only a clinical interview with a professional, usually a doctor, provides the best avenue for diagnosis. More information is being gathered every day about this confusing and difficult condition, but help is available now which will allow adults with ADD to overcome the problems it presents. Call the Baptist Health Counseling 24-hour Access Center at (502) 896-7105 or toll-free at 1-800-478-1105.