Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was originally considered a disorder limited to childhood, with a pronounced emphasis on symptoms of hyperactivity. Over time, however, it has become increasingly apparent that attention deficits were not only equally significant but also persistent and disabling over time and maturity. There are notable similarities between childhood and adult ADHD. Both exhibit similar molecular, genetic and neuron-imaging findings. Adults with ADHD usually respond to the same medications used to treat childhood ADHD. Patterns of other con-existing functional problems are also quite similar between the two. Today, the consensus is that adult ADHD is a continuation of childhood ADHD that may have gone unrecognized. It is interesting to note, however, the research informs that 50-60 percent of adults with ADHD who had ADHD in childhood no longer meet full diagnostic criteria. Needles to say, this can make the accurate diagnosis of ADHD in adults a real challenge.
Genetic transmission accounts for approximately 75 percent of neurobiological dysfunctions associated with ADHD. Positron emission tomography scans of the brains of adults with ADHD have shown that when engaged in decision-making, their neural circuits are different than in the brains of non ADHD subjects. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of adults with ADHD indicate that the areas of the brain responsible for executing functions which include impulse control, organization, planning, self-monitoring capacity, decision-making and working memory are involved. Consequently, ADHD hinders the capacity to regulate attention, impulsivity, emotional expression, motor behavior and pertinent application of higher-order executive functions.
The behavioral result is an individual who is able to concentrate, but not reliably. When engaged in preferred activities, most with ADHD can focus very well, Difficulties arise in concentration when they are bored or distracted by other internal or external stimuli. Many also have significant difficulty switching from a task in which they are absorbed to a task that necessitate they refocus their attention.
These attention and control deficits often lead to high-risk behaviors, as well as social and occupational impairment. Young adults with ADHD tend to use less contraception, have more sexual partners and have a higher prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases than their non- ADHD peers. "Consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and use of non-prescribed drugs is also more prevalent in ADHD adults. Finally, research shows that adults with ADHD have much greater difficulty keeping jobs and, on average, earn $8-15,000 a year less than their non- ADHD peers, with higher rates of unemployment than the general population. Without diagnosis and treatment, adults with ADHD tend to face a constant struggle in realizing their potential, put their medical well-being and the well-being of others into jeopardy by virtue of high-risk behaviors and be at increased risk for problems with alcohol, drugs and/or the legal system.
Peggy Nolen is a licensed professional counselor in Covington. She specializes in anxiety, depression, problems with drugs and alcohol and recovery from traumatic experience. She can be reached at (770) 314-5924.