As children and adolescents with ADHD do worse academically and engage in more high risk activities such as drug use but what happens when they are adults with ADHD? Can adults develop ADHD or be diagnosed later in life?
Work, Love and Adult ADHD
ADHD does not magically disappear once a child leaves school and enters the work force. Neither are the problems of ADHD limited to the workplace. The symptoms of poor memory, wayward attention and high risk behaviour have a significant impact on the domestic lives of the adult with ADHD.
An ADHD adult can expect to be married slightly times than non ADHD adult (0.7 times compared to 0.6) and moved house slightly more often (5.5 to 5.1 times). Both they and their spouse will score lower on marital satisfaction (80.6 and 83.2 for the ADHD subject and their spouse compared to 98.0 and 104.1).
They get significantly more speeding tickets (4.9 instead of 1.1) and been in more accidents (2.8 to 1.8). Not surprisingly they six times more likely to have their license suspended (24.2 to 4.0). They will have changed jobs more often (6.9 to 4.6) which might be connected to the fact that Adults with ADHD are more likely to be fired (52.9 to 30.8) or just impulsively quit (47.9 to 16.0).
Psychiatric Problems and Adult ADHD
Its a sad fact that children with ADHD grow up to have a statistically significant higher chance of developing mental health problems. One study comparing ADHD adults to non-ADHD found that there was a higher rate of antisocial personality disorder (12% versus 3%) such as Conduct Disorder (see Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and nonalcohol substance abuse (12% versus 4%). However adults with ADHD did not have increased chances of mood or anxiety disorders and are less likely to be psychiatrically hospitalized and less likely to commit suicide.
The Future for Children with ADHD
The worry for parents of children with ADHD is what happens later in life. The statistics above make grim reading but statistics don’t tell the whole story. As one study noted:
… nearly all [ADHD adults in the study] were gainfully employed. Furthermore, some had achieved a higher-level education (e.g., completed Master’s degree, enrolled in medical school) and occupation (e.g., accountant, stock broker). In addition, a full two thirds of these children showed no evidence of any mental disorder in adulthood. In conclusion, although ADHD children, as a group, fare poorly compared with their non-ADHD counterparts, the childhood syndrome does not preclude attaining high educational and vocational goals, and most children no longer exhibit clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems once they reach their mid-twenties.
Diagnosing Adult ADHD
Not all children with ADHD are diagnosed with the problem and of course there are millions of adults out in there who completed their education before ADHD became a recognised problem. Can they be diagnosed and treated in later life?
A very interesting 1997 study from Seattle look at diagnosing adults with ADHD. Out of 143 adult presenting for ADHD assessment, 32% clearly had ADHD and 32% clearly did not. The remaining 51 adults could not be diagnosed as having ADHD because of either a lack of childhood history and/or complicating severe psychiatric or substance abuse comorbidity. The differences between the three groups, ADHD, non-ADHD and ambiguous, were very similar but had key differences. The definite ADHD group had slower reading speeds than either the non-ADHD and the ambiguous group. However both the ADHD and ambiguous group had very similar scores on the Continuous Performance Test (CPT) and the Wender-Utah Rating Scale (WURS) for ADHD. Of the three groups, the ambiguous group had a higher rate of drugs or alcohol abuse. This study did not differentiate between the different types of ADHD so it may be that adults in the ambiguous group tend towards one problem where as the definite ADHD group tends towards the other.
Treatment of ADHD adults is very similar to childhood ADHD. Ritalin, Adderall and other stimulants have all found to be effective at relieving stimulants. SSRI drugs such as Prozac have not be shown to be useful except where depression or other factors are involved.
Adult ADHD and Woman
In children, boys with ADHD tend to be more common than girls with ADHD. However in adults, females are more common. This may be because boys with problems tend to be more disruptive than girls with problems thus boys are more likely to be sent for evaluation by their teachers. In ADHD adults there are higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, and conduct disorder in women. Such findings emphasis the importance of spotting ADHD in girls at an early age even if they do not have manifest their problems as obviously as the boys.
I’m An Adult, Can I Have ADHD?
The simple answer is yes. ADHD is not just a childhood issue, it is something that stays with you all your life. So if you think you have ADHD, go and see your doctor. It may be causing a lot of problems than you realise.
Previously on Myomancy
ADHD and Girls
Adult Psychiatric Status of Hyperactive Boys Grown Up
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Adults: Comorbidities and Adaptive Impairments
Long-term prognosis in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: assessment guidelines based on clinical presentation to a specialty clinic.
Adults with ADHD. An overview.
Gender differences in a sample of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder