ADHD – a disorder of hyperactive little boys?
ADHD is frequently thought of as a problem some little boys have. Boisterous little boys with lots of energy, who cannot seem to follow instructions or sit still, and can be quite disruptive in the classroom. Although this can be a common presentation of childhood ADHD, we now know that ADHD can look very different from this.
Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive. Girls have ADHD too. A large number of children DO NOT outgrow ADHD as adults.
ADHD in adults
Approximately 3-6% of all adults have ADHD. Most adults with ADHD will remember having challenges as children, even if they were not diagnosed or treated. Frequently they were not aware that their struggles were because of a disorder. Some remember being told or feeling they were stupid, inadequate, lazy or unmotivated.
Some adults with ADHD are able to build lives and find careers that maximize their strengths. Some accept the challenges and limitations that ADHD poses for them and are mostly content. Some are not aware that their challenges are due to a treatable condition. Hence they do not seek treatment.
Challenges at different life stages
People with ADHD can notice significant challenges and seek help at different stages of life. Starting college can be a time when some begin to struggle. The structure of life at home and close supervision of parents help them function fairly well until high school. Problems with functioning become noticeable when they leave home for college and lose the structure and predictability of life at home.
Others notice obvious challenges at a later stage of their lives. Starting graduate school, their first job, a change in career, moving in with a partner, marriage, and having children are major live events that can tip the balance. Some seek treatment when their children are diagnosed with ADHD and they realize they struggle with many of the same symptoms as their children.
Different kinds of problems
Challenges faced by adults due to ADHD symptoms can be varied. Problems are not limited to struggling at work or at school. Challenges can extend to relationships, marriage, keeping up with the demands of life, parenting, their sense of self and worthiness etc.
Hyperactivity in adults
Hyperactivity in adults looks different than it does in children. Some may be fidgety and need to move frequently. Physical restlessness can be replaced by an internal restlessness. Some have a sense of needing to do more, to do something else, feeling irritable, and often overwhelmed.
We continue to learn more about ADHD in adults. As the knowledge in the area grows we have moved beyond the stereotypical description of ADHD as a disorder of hyperactive little boys.
Live mindfully and well.
Dr. Sayanti Bhattacharya MD, MS