Diagnosing and Treating Adult ADHD

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Summary & Participants

If an adult with ADHD does not seek help, there can be serious consequences. Learn the ADHD basics and how it affects some adults.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, was originally considered a childhood disorder.

But in most cases, ADHD persists into adulthood.

LENARD ADLER, MD: Adult ADHD is a very common and quite impairing disorder. Recent studies show that about 4.4% of the adult population in the United States has ADHD. That means about 8 million individuals.

ANNOUNCER: There can be serious consequences associated with undiagnosed or untreated adult ADHD.

LENARD ADLER, MD: If individuals are worried that they might have ADHD, it's important to go in and get a diagnosis. The consequences of missing the diagnosis are significant. We know that untreated adults with ADHD are more likely to be divorced and separated, to be underemployed, change jobs more frequently or be unemployed, more likely to abuse substances, smoke cigarettes, and have more driving accidents.

ANNOUNCER: Most adults do not experience the same level of hyperactivity that is found in children.

But there are other symptoms that can be common in adults.

WILLIAM D. DODSON, MD: Adults will present with three large groups of symptoms. The first one is work inefficiency. They will start on a project, get distracted, then realize that they're distracted, have to come back, find their place. The second big area of impairment is going to be in emotional lability. People with ADHD generally will say that that's the biggest area of impairment for them, is that they feel very vulnerable to the perception that someone is disapproving of them, has withdrawn their approval and respect. The third major area that impairs people with ADHD is impulsivity. People with ADHD find out what they're thinking and are going to say and do the same way that everybody else does. It's out there, and they're constantly going, "Oh, I wish I had that back."

ANNOUNCER: And adults often suffer from additional medical conditions that can mask ADHD symptoms.

DAVID W. GOODMAN, MD: In ADHD we often find that about 70% of the adults with ADHD have or have had another psychiatric condition. Those conditions include clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and substance and alcohol abuse.

DR. DAVID FEIFEL: Oftentimes the second condition in an adult is driven by the ADHD that if -- if the ADHD isn't recognized, it can be a very frustrating experience for both the physician and the patient who are trying to deal with the comorbid or second condition, because it doesn't respond very well, because the ADHD is lurking behind it and continues to generate it.

ANNOUNCER: An accurate diagnosis of ADHD requires a thorough medical and psychological evaluation.

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