If you were recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an adult, there’s a good chance you’ve been struggling for years before it was noticed. The research indicates you are not alone. In fact, only about 20% of ADHD adults are currently diagnosed and medically treated for the condition. At the same time, almost 10% of children are thought to have ADHD, and the majority continue to meet criteria into adulthood. However, ADHD looks very different in children than in adults, yet the diagnostic criteria was built around the childhood version of ADHD. You know, the one without a job, marriage, and 25 years of learned behaviors and coping skills. This gap in understanding has led to ADHD folks struggling for years without effective treatment. Here is some insight from an ADHD specialist in Columbus, Ohio into why finding an accurate diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood continues to be such a battle and some signs that it’s time to start looking for ADHD testing.
Overlapping Symptoms Mask ADHD
It’s estimated that 80% of ADHD individuals have another co-occuring disorder. This often results in the ADHD symptoms being confused for the symptoms of the other disorder.
Mood Disorders and ADHD
One common overlapping symptom between ADHD and other diagnoses is emotional dysregulation. A mountain of research indicates that ADHD adults with hyperactive type and combined type struggle with emotional regulation. This is because the frontal lobe of the brain struggles to set boundaries on the emotional side of the brain.
This symptom overlap often happens with mood disorders. While you can have both ADHD and a mood disorder, there are differences in how emotional dysregulation occurs. In a mood disorder, the emotion doesn’t fit the facts. For example, despite a promotion or other positive events, a person with depression might continue to feel hopeless or sad. For an ADHD individual, their sadness fits the facts but it’s hard to contain. Many ADHDers might feel an emotion very deeply or have a hard time recovering from how they feel. However, once they change contexts (e.g. go to sleep or engage with something they enjoy), that particular feeling will likely pass.
Anxiety vs. Hyperactivity
Another common overlap is hyperactivity vs. anxiety. It’s true, many ADHD people are drawn to high intensity activities. They are prone to bursts of energy and restlessness. However, most ADHDers do not experience hyperactivity in the “Dennis the Menace” sense. What they usually report is an internalized restlessness. For example, struggling to shut their minds off. This is not the same as the chronic worries that keep anxious people on edge and afraid of the future.
Stereotypes can absolutely influence accurate diagnosis. For years, ADHD women and girls were overlooked for an ADHD diagnosis. Men and boys were not only diagnosed more often, but the field itself would often refer to ADHD as a “boys’ disorder.” Hard truth: ADHD doesn’t discriminate based on gender. However, women will often report more “internalized” ADHD (e.g. daydreaming, hyperactive minds, etc.), and they are more likely to have inattentive type ADHD. There is also some indication that female identified ADHDers tend to engage in more self-blame than their male identifying counterparts. This leads to less awareness of ADHD as a symptom of executive dysfunction, but rather a belief of being intrinsically “not good enough.” Another harder truth (since it’s that kind of day): ADHD impacts everyone differently, often depending on lived experiences. Like the saying goes: once you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD.
When to Start Looking into a Diagnosis
Taking an ADHD quiz is a good first step, as well as learning more about ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD are expressly related to one’s ability to filter out distractions, remember daily events or tasks, sustain effort toward goals, and regulate emotions and other impulses––just to name a few.
Here Are Some More Specific Examples of ADHD Symptoms:
- Struggling to pay attention over an extended period of time
- Avoiding tasks that require a lot of thinking
- Struggling to finish tasks (e.g. losing steam toward the end, losing interest in new habits and hobbies)
- Depending on others to get work done (e.g. needing external accountability)
- Feeling internally restless, fidgety, on the go,
- Being impatient
- Making quick and impulsive decisions
- Having trouble staying organized
- Having a hard time following instructions
Begin Adult ADHD Testing in Columbus, Ohio
You don’t have to live your life feeling scattered. ADHD-focused counseling can help you meet your potential. Our Columbus, OH counseling practice has caring therapists who specialize in ADHD Treatment. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:
- Fill out the contact form to schedule a free 15-minute phone
- Meet with one of our caring therapists.
- Stop feeling overlooked. Start feeling seen.
Other ADHD Services Offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling
Adult ADHD treatment is not the only service we offer at our Columbus, OH counseling practice. At Focused Mind ADHD Counseling, we offer a variety of mental health services including ADHD testing. As an adult with ADHD, we know you may also benefit from anxiety treatment for ADHD, counseling for men with ADHD, or depression counseling for ADHD. You can also view our blog for more resources and helpful info.