DOES SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAVE ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. Recent research shows that approximately 11% of children in Australia and the US have ADHD, and that 4.4% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 in the US have ADHD.
Dr. Russell Barkley, Ph.D., Clinical Neuropsychologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, suggests that people with ADHD have a deficit in the part of the brain that controls executive functioning i.e. the ability to plan and problem solve, recall information, regulate ones emotions, remain motivated, have foresight and self restraint – all the things which ADHD sufferers have great difficulty doing.
If you have a partner with ADHD you may feel like you have an additional child to look after, when you thought you married an adult. People with an undiagnosed ADHD partner often come to counseling complaining that they are totally burned out. They complain that they have to do twice the amount of work as their partner because he/she is so forgetful, messy or lazy; or that they have just learned to keep their opinions to themselves because their partner is so impatient and/or argumentative. There is no doubt that living with someone with undiagnosed ADHD is very hard work. This is backed up by research that shows that 80% of marriages that have one partner who has ADHD ends in divorce.
How can I ascertain if my partner or one of my children has ADHD?
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) is used by mental health professionals worldwide to help diagnose ADHD.
Below is a shortened list of their criteria for diagnosing ADHD. Please note that only a registered psychiatrist can diagnose and treat ADHD, so even if you find you meet all the criteria for ADHD below, you cannot say categorically that you have ADHD until it’s been verified by a psychiatrist.
Criteria and Symptoms of ADHD
There are now three types of presentations (types) of ADHD:
- Inattentive (Previously known as just ADD)
- Combined Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive
If you suspect you may have ADHD, then you can take the quick ADHD Quiz below. Please be aware that only a registered psychiatrist can fully diagnose and treat someone with ADHD. The below quiz is a guideline only.
Children up to 16 years old, must have SIX or more symptoms listed below. Adolescents over 17 years and adults, must have at least FIVE of the symptoms listed below. Symptoms of inattention must have been present for at least 6 months, and are inappropriate for the person’s developmental level.
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (tasks requiring a lot of thinking such as schoolwork or homework, or preparing reports, completing their tax).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted. (e.g. can’t hold eye contact if there is a noise or people talking nearby, will wander off during a task to start something entirely new – can get bored easily)
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
HYPERACTIVITY & IMPULSIVITY SYMPTOMS:
Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity must have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level.
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition to the above criteria, the following conditions must also be met for all three types of ADHD:
- Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms must have been present before age 12 years.
- Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (e.g., at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
- There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of social, school, or work functioning.
- The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
- The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).
CO-EXISTING CONDITIONS It is common for people who are diagnosed with ADHD to also suffer with at least one other mental condition such as depression, anxiety, Oppositional Defiance Disorder or a learning disability. In children and adolescents one study showed that Oppositional Defiance Disorder appeared in 41% of cases, Depression appeared in 22% of cases and that General Anxiety Disorder appeared in 15% of cases.
GETTING AN ADHD DIAGNOSIS Please note that in Australia, only a registered psychiatrist or pediatrician can diagnose whether a child or an adult has ADHD. If you suspect you, or someone you love may have ADHD, you will need to get a referral from your doctor to see a psychiatrist for a full diagnostic test.
PEOPLE WITH ADHD CAN HAVE A SUCCESSFUL LIFE With the correct medical treatment, understanding and support from family members, bosses and co-workers, an improved diet, regular exercise and newly learned organizational strategies from an ADHD Counsellor or Coach, people with ADHD can lead a fairly normal life.
There are many famous people who been able to manage their ADHD characteristics and have them work in their favour, instead of against them. These include: Millionaire Entrepreneur Richard Branson, actors Will Smith and Ryan Gosling, comedians Bill Cosby, Jim Carrey and Robbin Williams, entertainers Justin Timberlake and Will I Am, and Gold medalist Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
MOST SUITABLE JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH ADHD People with ADHD tend to be very creative people. They often think outside the box, so it’s very important that they find a job that suits their flexibie thinking patterns and voracious need for variety. They tend to thrive in high intensity environments where no two days are the same.
Occupations which ADHD people tend to favour because of their need to move, talk and have new experiences are police officers, firefighters, the military, doctors, nurses, counselors, psychologists, teachers, sales positions, real estate, chefs, artists, actors, comedians, dancers, all the trades such as mechanics, plumbers, tilers etc, as well as entrepreneurs. You will find a lot of ADHD people working in business for themselves because they are free to set their own hours and regularly come up with new, innovative ideas, which they just love doing.
ADHD RESOURCES There are a lot of good books and websites devoted to helping people with ADHD available. Some of the books I highly recommend for ADHD sufferers and their spouses are available to purchase from the Books section on this website. They are “Healing ADD” by Daneil G. Amen and “The ADD Effect on Marriage” by Melissa Orlov.
Another very good resource for people to understand how the brain of an ADHD person works is to watch all of Dr. Russell Barkley’s YouTube videos on ADHD. Dr. Barkley is a highly respected clinical neuropsychologist and a leading authority on ADHD. Here is a link to one of his Youtube videos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQC4voqmRg&feature=player_embedded
A particularly good website and magazine with lots of helpful tips on how to cope with ADHD for children and adults can be found at: http://www.additudemag.co
Recent studies undertaken in the US and in Australia have both proven that meditation can help reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention in people with ADHD. Therefore I highly recommend downloading the 20 free meditation mp3’s I have available on this website.
ADHD IS GENETIC It’s important to note that ADHD is highly genetic. Research shows that if a parent has ADHD, there is a 20-54% chance that his/her child will have ADHD as well. In addition, if one of your children has ADHD there is a 25-35% chance that one of their siblings will also have it. ADHD is also three times more prevalent in boys than in girls.
If you notice one of your children exhibiting ADHD characteristics, it is highly likely that either you or your partner, or a close relative, also has ADHD.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH ADHD As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in my later years, I know first hand the frustrations people with undiagnosed ADHD live with on a daily basis. In addition, as a daughter growing up with a very impulsive/aggressive non-diagnosed ADHD father has also given me great insight as to what the family members of an non diagnosed ADHD have to deal with on a daily basis. As a Counsellor, having lived through both of these experiences means that I can help both a client with ADHD as well as their partner have a better understanding of what ADHD is and how you can survive it.