Everything You Need To Know About ADHD

What is ADHD

What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?

Many people, children and adults, are referred by schools, employers, doctors, and family members, wondering if they have an attention deficit disorder. Now called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this syndrome occurs in approximately 6% of U.S. school children according to the CDC. It has been called ADD in the past, and even ‘minimal brain dysfunction’, and it has been described in the medical literature for hundreds of years.

ADHD is primarily a disorder of self-control. It is a genetically linked, inhibitory disorder. The major signs of ADHD are

• Impulsivity

• Hyperactivity

• inattention.

People with ADHD may have difficulty focusing on the present, anticipating the future, and remembering experiences of the past. They may have an extremely distorted sense of time, they may have difficulty delaying gratification, they may have difficulty holding events in mind, and they may have limited self-awareness. People with the inattentive part of ADHD are typically distractible and do not seem to listen when spoken to. They may have problems organizing and completing tasks, especially those requiring mental effort. The overactive/impulsive part is characterized by such things as fidgeting and talking out of turn. But sometimes people who have hyperactivity part do not disturb others; their hyperactivity/impulsivity affects them internally.

ADHD begins in childhood, however, more adults are being diagnosed, yet we do see in their history that it was present in their childhood. About two-thirds of children with ADHD carry it into adulthood, though as they get older many people are not so overactive but may feel restless inside. Often ADHD first becomes apparent when someone is required to concentrate more than before. This may arise as early as kindergarten, when children are first asked to conform to social rules, in early grades when they are asked to concentrate on desk work or homework, or perhaps later in life when demands of school or work lead to great frustration and sometimes poor advancement. Smart kids are often diagnosed later, as they are better able to compensate when the work is not too difficult. Often when they reach middle school or even high school, and they take classes that challenge them, they may find themselves in unfamiliar territory, getting poor grades for the first time, despite great effort. We are seeing more adults, often those who completed graduate school, being diagnosed following struggles in their careers not new to them, but for a number of reasons, choose to understand it now.

Adult ADHD

I Was Told I Was “Too Smart” To Have ADHD.

They Did Not Want To “Label” Me As ADHD, So They Never Told Me About My Diagnosis In Early Childhood.

Compass Psych Services conducts Adult ADHD and Modified Adult Evaluations.


What Does it Look Like in Adults?

It is often not hard to spot what we have long thought of as “typical” ADHD in children and adolescents. But adults can have more subtle symptoms. This means many adults struggle with ADHD yet may not even know they have it. Many are diagnosed with other co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Adults may not realize that many of the problems they face, including staying organized, difficulty starting a task, or being on time, relate back to ADHD.

Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten classes or meetings, or even social plans. The inability to control impulses (hyperactivity), often thought of as the “8 year old boy running around the classroom”, in adults can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Isn’t ADHD a Disorder in Childhood?

While ADHD is a disorder typically diagnosed in childhood, there are approximately 10 million adults who have ADHD, with around 20% treating it. More often than not, the other 80% of these adults may not even be aware they have ADHD. While these adults had ADHD in childhood, several factors may have prevented those around them from recognizing it.

As a child, they may have been missed because they were very bright, managing well throughout school, sometimes even through high school, college or even graduate school, until they experienced the demands of adulthood, especially at work.  For others, teachers and parents may not have recognized the signs, especially as the work became more challenging, and their struggle increased.

ADHD Medication

Considering ADHD Medication?

Deciding if one’s child would benefit from ADHD medication is often challenging for parents.

“Is my ADHD child reaching their full potential at school, at home, and with friends?” Parents often find that medication helps with this question.

Medication doesn’t cure ADHD but does allow the child, adolescent, or adult to better function and manage their ADHD and to improve their overall functioning in school, at home, at work, and in the community. Combining treatments (academic, behavioral, psychotherapeutic) with medicine is useful in helping the person with ADHD and their loved ones learn ways to manage and modify the behaviors that cause problems at home and at school.

When prescribed properly ADHD medications do help to improve focus and concentration and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. They do not change a child’s personality.

Finding the right medication can take time requiring close collaboration between the doctor, the family, and the therapists.

While some ADHD children may no longer require treatment as they enter late adolescence many may have persistence of symptoms into adulthood. ADHD symptoms change over time, with less hyperactive behavior in teens and young adults. Inattention and impulsivity can persist into adulthood and can have a negative impact on academic functioning, work performance, and interpersonal relationships.

Properly treated teens and adults with ADHD often notice that they can concentrate more in class or at work and might be less bored or restless. If ongoing medication is needed, it is important to have a good working relationship with a psychiatrist or health-care provider who has expertise in treatment of ADHD.

Following your evaluation, should medication be a recommended part of your treatment, you may request a list of Psychiatrists in the community who have experience treating individuals with ADHD.