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Why is my ADHD bothering me now?

January 16, 2012

ADHD (or ADD without the H) is a disorder whose symptoms start in childhood. Two of three of these children will continue to have symptoms to an impairing degree beyond age 18 . Of the adults with ADHD who are diagnosed in adulthood, only 25% were ever diagnosed as a child (Kessler et al 2007). One reason for the under-identification of children with ADHD is that only those children who are disruptive come to the attention of teachers and parents. Non-disruptive children with ADHD may not get diagnosed until later in life. So the question is, what would cause them to seek an evaluation later in life. “If you lived with it all this time, it can’t be that bad.” Right? Well, not exactly.

In our recent publication on ADHD throughout the Lifespan (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry February 2012), we discuss the developmental phases of life that prompt the question “Why is my ADHD bothering me now?” When reading this article, please note the authorship of internationally recognized experts in the field that include Drs. Atilla Turgay (Canada), Phillip Asherson (United Kingdom), myself and Russell Barkley (United States).

Each developmental phase of life takes on more responsibility. For example, moving from middle school to high school means the academic demands and workload increases. As you move from high school to college, you need to be able to organize yourself to get to classes, do assignments on time, schedule time for study, sleep, play, and classtime. If you go onto first job, you need to be punctual, respond appropriately to supervisors, and complete work on time. When you get married, you need to negotiate household responsibilties and complete tasks timely and consistently to be a team player in your marriage. And then you go on to have children which adds additional layers of tasks and responsibilities requiring increasing levels of organization and efficiency. How about a job promotion with more tasks and the oversight of others. So, each developmental phase of adult life has its set of tasks and responsibilities and your ability to adapt and compensate becomes more difficult. At some point, your daily performance suffers whether at work or home.  At this point, either you or someone close (employer, family, friend) to you will bring it to your attention. Sometime this is done kindly, sometimes it is the result of an argument because you haven’t followed through as expected by others.

Our publication was written for physicians and psychiatrists so that they would understand why an adult with ADHD who had never gotten treatment might come to their office for an evaluation. We hope that this publication will disuade physicians from discounting an adult’s compliant of daily function and look for ADHD when indicated.

If you are not a physician, I think the article is still quite readable for most people and may provoke some thoughts and discussions amongst those effected by ADHD.

Thank you for your time and interest in reading my postings.

David W. Goodman, M.D.

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