ADHD not to be confused with personality

By Lahja Nashuuta

ATTENTION-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with brain functioning or development, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In both children and adults, the main symptoms of ADHD include inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. In adults, chronic boredom, a lack of organisational skills, depression and difficulty controlling emotions are particularly evident.

According to Mediclinic Welkom clinical psychologist, Thato Taka, the dangers of untreated ADHD in adulthood include depression, mood swings and low self-esteem that can cause one to act impulsively or irrationally.

Adults with untreated ADHD often smoke and also run the risk of abusing alcohol, drugs or both, in order to ‘self-medicate’ their symptoms.

According to health experts, the suicide rate for adults with childhood ADHD, who do not continue to take medication, is five times higher than in adults who did not have the condition in childhood. The reality is that around 60 percent of ADHD sufferers’ symptoms continue into adulthood.

Taka, through one of her articles published MediClinic Info Hub – an online journal, says: “If you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child and you now see a pattern of disrupted relationships and inconsistent performance at work, you most likely did not ‘outgrow’ the condition.”

She points out that one of the difficulties in treating adult ADHD is that many sufferers struggle to accept the diagnosis, believing it is really a childhood condition.

“Quite a number of ADHD adults I see deny they have the condition. A typical response from them is, ‘It’s just my personality’,” says Taka.

“It’s often difficult to get adult ADHD sufferers to take medication, even though they struggle to concentrate at work or complete their tasks on time. Of course, this results in problems with colleagues or supervisors, and there is often a pattern of changing jobs frequently,” she adds.

She says lack of organisational and time management skills are real problems for adults with ADHD.

Other symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder include unnecessary spending and sometimes accruing huge debts, which can take a financial toll and also wreak havoc on relationships with spouses, parents and children.

According to Taka, adults with ADHD often feel frustrated, embarrassed or awkward about the diagnosis and do not want to share it with colleagues or friends. They find it hard to accept that they have what is commonly thought of as a childhood condition.

She, therefore, recommends that it is crucial to know that ADHD is a mental condition that should be taken seriously.

With medication and psychotherapy especially cognitive therapy – the prognosis is good and many adults with ADHD lead happy, healthy lives.

March 2017
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