Mind Matters — Yes, Adults Can Have ADHD

There are some things we just don’t outgrow, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may be one of them. Recent studies have found that those who suffered ADHD as children may continue to suffer its effects throughout adulthood.

Ari Tuckman is a local psychologist who has written several books on the subject. More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD is his most recent. It is a great book for both those who have ADHD and for those who live with someone who does. The book provides sound research as well as practical strategies.

Tuckman laments that he must state in his book, “ADHD is real” to counteract the many myths that purport ADHD to be a bogus issue. However, he also warns that there can only be effective treatment with accurate diagnosis. Forgetting our keys occasionally makes a case neither for “we all have ADHD moments, therefore ADHD doesn’t exist,” nor for “we all have ADHD” and therefore need treatment.

Diagnosing ADHD, says Tuckman, is not a simple matter of taking an online survey. What may be most helpful in determining whether an individual has ADHD or not is a lengthy interview in which a knowledgeable therapist can inquire about the person’s present functioning and past performance. What are the individual’s strengths and weaknesses? Tuckman notes that if an individual reports a particular symptom that might indicate ADHD, the therapist needs to investigate the length, duration and pervasiveness of that symptom. For example, forgetfulness. Did the person have problems with forgetfulness in grade school as well as now? In what situations is the forgetfulness most problematic? And, further, at what cost to the person’s life is the symptom? Is the symptom merely an annoyance or has it precipitated losses of relationships or jobs?

ADHD in adulthood, Tuckman advises, may be masked by other diagnoses, such as anxiety or depression. Often, the hyperactivity component so apparent (especially in the stereotype of the restless little boy) in childhood dissipates in adulthood ADHD and what becomes more evident is distractibility—not finishing projects, not being able to follow through, procrastination.

Once ADHD is properly diagnosed, the treatment is multi-faceted. Because it is a neurological condition, properly managed medications (such as Ritalin or Adderall, for example) can be very helpful, but Tuckman reminds the reader that some folks manage their ADHD without the aid of medication. Learning coping skills, stress management, mindfulness meditation, organizational skills, time management—all these can help. Most importantly, guided by the therapist, the person with ADHD, from a lifetime of feeling inadequate and perhaps ashamed, can begin to build self-esteem and self trust.

Ari Tuckman gives caring and clear advice to those with ADHD. Some of the resources he lists include: