ADHD is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary from person to person. Additionally, there are no physical tests (such as blood work) to definitively determine an ADHD diagnosis. Rather, health care providers rely on tools such as observation, patient history, questionnaires, and interviews with adults to determine whether five or more symptoms and/or five or more hyperactivity/impulsivity are required for diagnosis.

Given how difficult ADHD is to diagnose and measure, if the disorder is neglected in childhood, it can be diagnosed as an adult.

How ADHD can develop in adults?

Some people experience fewer symptoms as they get older, while others still experience them to the same extent. However, ADHD in adults usually presents as motorcycling children who are forgetful, restless, easily distracted, and/or over-reactive to sadness.

Similar treatment, including medication and behavioral therapy, is available for adults and offers good results for many people with ADHD. A more accurate diagnosis is likely to be made by a healthcare professional experienced with ADHD.

Untreated ADHD in adults usually means that it has been missed as a child. ADHD can be misdiagnosed; however, it is more common that individuals simply cannot care or find ways to cope. One of the most common childhood symptoms is that children seem to “run the motor.” In adults, untreated ADHD may be less noticeable, and they may not be able to focus or finish projects. If someone with ADHD is interested in what they do, they can delve deeply into the subject they are good at in some professions, but if they are assigned something they are not interested in, they may have trouble participating. Think windows, doodles, and more.

Adults with ADHD can see progress in their lives, work and family life with medications and other treatments that the health care system can provide, said Pescosolido. For those who are concerned that they may have ADHD, you may want to see a primary care physician, mental health professional, or psychiatrist to determine if they are experiencing problems with ADHD or other issues. If you are one of those people who know if you have ADHD as an adult, you may want to consider whether you have attention deficit disorder as an adult.

Diagnose ADHD in adults

Your doctor will run several tests to make a diagnosis. To rule out other conditions, they’ll do a physical exam to ask about your medical history and other conditions, perform psychological tests, and use an ADHD rating scale to get a deeper look at your symptoms.

There are three main types of ADHD, and your test may depend on your symptoms:

Hyperactive impulsive:

This type involves problems with your ability to pay attention.

Putting together:

This is the most common type and exhibits symptoms of the other two types. Sometimes a person without one of the first two types will go years without being diagnosed. Because only one type has symptoms, doctors may not recognize ADHD early on.

Factors That Cause ADHD

1. Bad sleeping habits

Inadequate sleep has been declared a “public health epidemic” by the CDC and other medical experts around the world. In North America, one in three adults do not get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, and nearly two in all adults suffer from sleep disorders.

In addition to being associated with long-term health consequences (such as a higher risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease), chronic sleep deprivation seriously impairs normal cognitive function. Sleeping less than six hours a night leads to poor alertness and concentration and impairs working memory. It can also make you more impulsive and irritable.

If you’re constantly sacrificing sleep for other activities, it’s important to know that even if you don’t “feel tired,” you have this cognitive deficit. Over time, chronically sleep-deprived people become accustomed to functioning on insufficient sleep, which leads them to underestimate its impact on their lives. However, studies have shown that ADHD mimics a persistent decline in cognitive performance and mood symptoms. In addition, because chronic lack of sleep damages the brain, chronically poor sleep can cause mild, latent ADHD in adults, thereby leading to the onset of the condition.

2. Stressful life events.

Stress is considered one of the main causes of ADHD episodes in adults, and it can cause ADHD-like symptoms in people who do not have the condition. Persistent anxiety impairs memory function, making it difficult to retain and focus on new information. Stress can exacerbate these negative mental changes and lead to insomnia.

3. Medical conditions.

Many medical conditions can cause symptoms that mimic or worsen ADHD, including thyroid disease, hypoglycemia, sleep apnea (and other sleep disorders), seizure disorders, and untreated diabetes. That is why you have to consult your doctor first.

4. Drug interactions.

Along with their desired effects, many medications also cause unwanted side effects, including changes in mood, memory, and cognition. This is true for mental health drugs (e.g, some atypical antidepressants and antipsychotics) and drugs intended to treat physical ailments, such as corticosteroids, cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, anticholinergics, and sleep aids.

If you think your ADHD symptoms have worsened since starting a new medication, talk to your doctor. He can offer you alternative medicine or help you find ways to cope with the mental and/or emotional side effects of taking it.

5. Lack of food.

Iron deficiency and vitamin deficiency anemia can cause confusion, forgetfulness, and personality changes. Ask your doctor about a blood test if you are experiencing extreme fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, weakness, dizziness, or trouble thinking or remembering, along with other symptoms that may indicate a nutritional deficiency.

If you already know you have ADHD, be aware that ADHD medication is associated with a risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can reduce activity.

6. Too much screen time.

Too much screen time is not bad for kids; there is evidence that it impairs learning and attention in adults as well. Screen time improves your focus and concentration, indirectly by reducing the quality and quantity of sleep.

How to get aid for adult ADHD

Here are some tips to improve memory, concentration and mood stability:

1. Practice good sleep hygiene.

In addition to getting at least eight hours of sleep, experts recommend turning off your devices two hours before bed to ensure adequate melatonin release. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends, and limit naps to half an hour or less.

2. Use the screen wisely.

As a general rule, you should limit yourself to less than two hours a day (outside of business hours). Likewise, when using an electronic device, try not to crowd: Use one program at a time, and do not switch between several applications in your web browser.

3. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-protein foods boosts cognitive function by preventing nutritional deficiencies and regulating blood sugar levels. This way of eating provides consistent energy throughout the day, which is important for maintaining focus.

4. Exercise regularly.

Research shows that physical activity improves mental performance in both people with and without ADHD. In addition, exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing the production of dopamine and serotonin.

5. Pay attention.

Mindfulness involves consistently bringing attention to the present moment to recognize and process emotions. Actively managing thoughts and emotions teaches the brain to filter out distractions and control unhelpful impulses, thus leading to significant improvement in ADHD symptoms.

6. See a mental health professional.

Whether you want to discuss a possible ADHD diagnosis, manage symptoms, or get help dealing with anxiety or depression, therapy can be a wonderful resource. A therapist can help you navigate stressful events and life transitions, create more supportive relationships, and better understand your cognitive profile and emotional makeup. Even without ADHD (or other underlying conditions), therapy can help you feel more resilient, grounded, and connected to the people around you—all of which are key predictors of health, productivity, and quality of life.

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