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Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

What are Adult ADD and ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a behavioral disorder characterised by an inability to pay attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. ADD is the same disorder, but without the hyperactive component. This form of the disorder is often hallmarked by inattentiveness. Often, adults who have it have had it since childhood, although it frequently goes undiagnosed into adulthood.

ADHD can contribute to unstable interpersonal relationships, poor performance at work or in school, or other psychological issues, such as low self-esteem.

ADD and ADHD can lead to feelings of shame. Imagine how difficult it might be for a child to go through school lacking the ability to focus, constantly asking teachers to repeat things because they can’t follow along like other students.

After a while, the child may begin to doubt his or her abilities. This can lead to a cascade of shame and self-aversion that damage the self-concept and result in numbing behaviors and even addictions.

Sign and Symptoms

Those who struggle with ADHD have difficulty paying attention; they also make impulsive decisions and show signs of restlessness. These symptoms can slowly decrease with age. Symptoms can vary greatly in severity from mild to severe, with severe symptoms being extremely disruptive to one’s personal life.

Again, many adults don’t understand that they have this condition; they simply find it more difficult to perform certain tasks than other people do.

Other symptoms of ADHD can include:

  • Disorganization
  • Inability to prioritize
  • Poor memory
  • Poor time management skills
  • Inability to focus on a single task or to multi-task
  • Excessive activity or restlessness
  • Inability to plan effectively
  • Has trouble following directions
  • Gets frustrated/angry easily
  • Has frequent mood swings
  • Lacks ability to follow through and complete tasks
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Procrastination/Low motivation
  • Tardiness

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As a result of having these symptoms, a number of challenging complications can arise. There are too many to list exhaustively. But as one might imagine, a lack of focus can be a nuisance.

Here is a list of some ways ADHD can disrupt a person’s life:

  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Changing jobs often/Unemployment
  • More speeding tickets or traffic accidents
  • Legal trouble
  • Getting in trouble at school
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship or marital problems/Divorce
  • Substance abuse/addiction
  • Poor self-Image
  • Suicide attempts

Coexisting Conditions

Although they cannot cause ADHD, there are a few psychological conditions that can compound its symptoms for the individual. Because each one of these (depending on its severity) can be serious or debilitating in its own right, if the individual also suffers from ADHD, the effect can be overwhelming. Here are a few examples of mental health issues and how they interact with ADHD:

Mood Disorders

Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or other mood disorders can be very difficult for a person struggling with ADHD. As people with ADHD have trouble focusing, they can make mistakes or miss opportunities, which leads to disappointment and failure. These failures can exacerbate depression or other conditions.


Because anxiety manifests as overwhelming fear or concern, wrestling with ADHD can make this fight more difficult. If the individual is facing an issue that causes fear or anxiety, then those emotions can compound the frustration felt by a person suffering from ADHD. This leads to one’s failure to address the issue, which leads to more anxiety, and more frustration.

Learning Disabilities

Although ADHD is not classified as a learning disability, it can create many special challenges for learners affected by it. If the learner has ADHD in addition to a learning disability, he or she may find that putting in the work necessary to overcome that disability poses special challenges. Teachers working with such learners will need a specialized plan (an IEP), and a lot of patience.

Causes and Risk Factors

Very little is known about the causes of ADHD. There are, however, some efforts to study certain risk factors, specifically the central nervous system’s exposure to certain harmful conditions during development. Here are a few things we know:

Genetics: So far, genetics seems to be the most important factor in determining the development of ADHD in people. ADHD can be inherited. And although the correlation between incidence in a parent and child is small, it does exist. In fact, it is frequently diagnosed in a parent and a child at the same time.

Traumatic Brain Injury: These injuries can contribute to a person developing ADHD in some cases.

Premature Birth: Premature babies have a higher risk of developing ADHD.

Prenatal Exposure: Certain chemicals can increase the risk of a child developing ADHD, in particular those consumed by the mother during pregnancy. Alcohol, nicotine, and harder drugs are examples.

Environmental Toxins: Although rare, exposure to environmental toxins can contribute to the development of ADHD in certain people.


Diagnosis of ADHD requires examination by a licensed medical professional who is familiar with the criteria the American Psychiatric Association uses to diagnose the issue. The APA uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition to describe the criteria, as well as the minimum standards for diagnosing ADHD in children and adults.

Although the criteria for children and adults are the same, the evaluator will look for different degrees of behavior for either category. The evaluator must identify several areas of need with respect to Hyperactivity, and several more with respect to inattention before making a clear diagnosis.


Adults have different options for addressing ADHD symptoms. Each solution offers different benefits, and those suffering with the condition should take the time to evaluate all available options. As with any mental health condition, the patient benefits most from the assistance of a mental healthcare provider familiar with the condition and its various treatment modalities.


Medicine is the most common method of addressing ADHD symptoms. Stimulants provide significant help in enabling patients to focus, although they can have serious side effects for people who use them long-term. Antidepressants also offer some relief for patients, though they are not commonly prescribed. Atomoxetine is a non-stimulant drug that has been approved for treating ADHD, with some success.

Talk Therapy

Therapy helps ADHD patients to develop strategies for facing their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common choice for helping patients to identify patterns of behavior that are not productive and work to change them. Family (or Group) Therapy empowers family members to look for ways to help the patient and provide moral support. There are other therapies that also provide significant help.


A variety of resources are available to people with ADHD to help them understand the illness and develop strategies for mitigating it. These are best explored with the assistance of a mental healthcare provider. Again, a mental health provider with intimate knowledge of ADHD is the best resource, as he or she can guide the patient through the creation of a plan of action tailored to his or her needs.

Meet Jim Brillon, Orange County’s ADHD Expert

If you have been struggling with the symptoms described in this page for some time and would like some help, call our office. Jim Brillon has been diagnosing ADHD in Orange County residents for years, and knows exactly how to empower people with confidence in their ability to function at a high level despite their symptoms. If you are seeking relief, or an effective solution or treatment, Jim will listen to your story, and help you overcome the challenges you face. We know this is not easy. But with the right person in your corner, you will attain a new level of peace and independence. This is our commitment to you.

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