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Understanding Attention Deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with a Melbourne Psychologist

ADHD: Research Findings on ADHD

ADHD symptoms are persistent and often disruptive causing significant struggles with day-to-day tasks. ADHD symptoms can be tracked back to early childhood years, however, symptom presentation can present very differently from childhood to adulthood, as well as from one individual to the next. Due to the impairment that ADHD symptoms can have in daily functioning, speaking with a warm and compassionate psychologist who has a special interest in ADHD and training in evidence-based treatment for ADHD and symptom management can help improve mood, self-esteem and life balance.

What is Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

According to The New England Journal of Medicine (2020), ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity, inattention or by a combination of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention that is inconsistent with developmental level and impairs daily function (Cortese, 2020).

What to look for when screening symptoms of ADHD?

A good starting point is to reach out to a professional that has a special interest in ADHD, to assist you in the diagnosis process and treatment of ADHD. A number of our psychologists at Positive Wellbeing Psychology have a special in Adult ADHD treatment and can explore a range of evidence-based strategies to manage difficulties with executive function skills and emotion regulation individualised to your current strengths and difficulties. To get started you can complete a screener and consider the below:

  1. Are symptoms persistent – do you find symptoms show up at the start of the day and last all day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks?
  2. Are symptoms pervasive– do your symptoms show up everywhere you go? Are your symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity or impulsivity link ‘unwelcome distractions’ or problems at home, at work, at the market, or even in a casual conversation? For example, people with Generalized Anxiety or Panic note that they have anxiety every day, all the time, and become exhausted by the constant worry.
  3. Are your symptoms causing you impairments – do you find the symptoms harm you in some manner, cause you discomfort, or carry a heavy cost financially, or physically? For example, people with ADHD sometimes lose jobs, forget important appointments, or have lots of late fees on bills Impairments can also result in feeling “everything is too hard” “always feeling exhausted” and “empty tank most of the time”.

What about the Symptom onset of ADHD?

ADHD is usually identified and diagnosed in children. In up to 70% of childhood cases, the symptoms persist into adulthood. In some cases, ADHD is not recognized or diagnosed until adulthood. Adult ADHD symptoms may not be as clear as ADHD symptoms in children. In adults, hyperactivity may decrease, but struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.

The diagnosis of ADHD in adults has also been shown to be a little more difficult because certain symptoms of ADHD are similar to symptoms caused by other conditions such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD have also been found to present with anxiety and/or depression.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Problems focusing on a task
  • Trouble multitasking
  • Excessive activity or restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress or using maladaptive coping strategies

If any of the symptoms listed above continually disrupt your life, we recommend talking to your doctor about whether you might benefit from a referral for further assessment, diagnosis, and evidence-based intervention to manage symptoms of ADHD. It is important to highlight different types of health care professionals who may diagnose and supervise treatment for ADHD. Seek a provider who has training and experience in caring for adults with ADHD.

How can ADHD impact daily life?

ADHD in adulthood often leads to unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, and low self-esteem, among other difficulties in daily life. ADHD has been found to impact a range of emotional and behavioural difficulties in individuals. These challenges may present in the following ways:

  • Poor school or work performance
  • Unemployment or frequently moving workplaces
  • Financial problems
  • Constant fatigue (due to executive function difficulties)
  • Finding yourself in trouble with the law, or at uni, school or work (due to impulsive behaviours)
  • Alcohol or other substance misused
  • Frequent car accidents or other accidents
  • Unstable relationships
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Poor self-image
  • Suicide attempts
  • Risk-taking behaviours
  • Lack of motivation and difficulty with task initiation (putting on daily responsibilities)

Evidence-Based Treatment for ADHD:

For children, young people, and adults the first-line treatment is pharmacological. In the instance that psychological treatment is preferred, or where pharmacotherapy has proven to be only partially effective, or ineffective, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy should be offered as the psychotherapy approach (Read ‘The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, 2018’ here).

Treatment for adult ADHD is somewhat similar to treatment for childhood ADHD. Treatment can include a combination of the following:

  1. Pharmacological treatment and medication review with a Psychiatrist or GP (medical permit required to manage the medicaitons in Australia)
  2. Psychotherapy with a Psychologist
  3. Education and/or training (ADHD coach)
  4. Treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD

Our psychologists recommended discussing your assessment, diagnosis and treatment needs with your trusted general practitioner as the first point of call. Should you need additional guidance you can request an appointment with one of our psychologists at Positive Wellbeing Psychology, as we can guide you on accessing necessary and holistic supports. This is important as effective treatment usually adopts a combination of medication and psychotherapy with a registered psychologist.

Pharmacological Treatment:

The New England Journal of Medicine (2020) provided insightful findings on the pharmacological treatment for ADHD. Research shows pharmacological treatment options such as medication helps by decreasing the severity of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This study indicated that within periods during which individuals diagnosed with ADHD were receiving medication, a significant improvement in academic functioning and a decrease in a range of other negative outcomes that can impact daily life. The study also indicated reduced risk of car accidents and substance use.

How can Positive Wellbeing Psychology Help?

At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we are trained in evidence-based treatment approaches for ADHD. You can feel comfortable working together to help improve, understand, and manage symptoms of attention and hyperactivity.

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