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Progression of ADHD into Adulthood
Author: Bob Seay
Date: October 1998
It wasn't all that long ago when conventional wisdom held that ADD/ADHD was a
childhood disorder that we would grow out of as we grew older. Those of us who
live with Adult ADD knew better. Eventually the professionals caught up and
recognized that fact. ADD in adults is now being diagnosed and treated in much
larger numbers than ever before.
As we look at the lives of these ADDults, we begin to see some patterns. Those
who believe in the "ADD is a disorder" mindset might call these
patterns "the natural progression of the disease". These
patterns reinforce the idea that when you try to force fit an ADD person into a
non-ADD world, you are bound to create a lot of problems.
Look at the numbers
Depression: up to 70% of ADD people have been treated for depression
Bi-polar disorder: 20% (vs. 1% of the general population)
Sleep problems: 50%
Social phobias: 31% (Brown)
These numbers represent those who have
been diagnosed and treated as ADD people. We also know that among the
undiagnosed ADD population there are myriad other problems: self-medication with
cocaine or other drugs (an estimated 15-20% of cocaine addicts are undiagnosed
ADDers), conduct disorders, and more.
One has to wonder if dementia in the elderly is not as least partially included
as well. You forget where you put your keys when you're 30 and its ADD you
forget when you're 70, and they ship you off to the nursing home.
I am firmly of the "hunter/farmer" mindset I have a hard time thinking
of our unique nonlinear brains as "disordered". However, I am not so
naive that I cannot see the results of our differences over time. Why is this
If we understand the nature of the ADD brain, and if we know that we may be
predisposed towards depression or other illness, then we can better recognize
and understand what is happening when these things occur. Rather than waiting
until we are suicidal to face the fact that it is Depression that is killing us,
we can recognize that Depression is part of living with ADD and be ready to
begin treatment before it reaches that point.
These disorders do not occur in every person diagnosed with ADD. But, they do
occur in significant enough numbers that we can no longer ignore the evidence.
I usually write the upbeat stuff about ADD, and I realize that reading that your
ADD child will probably develop depression and may become bipolar is not exactly
in keeping with my reputation as Mr. Happy. But, this can be a positive step. Knowing
that you are not alone that so many of us live with these "advanced
stages" of ADD, is always encouraging. You are not a freak. This is
simply part of the process. By understanding that, you and your child will be
better able to seek and receive help before reaching critical levels.
Bob Seay is the guide to the ADD site
at The Mining Co.
He can be reached at http://add.miningco.com.
Still, a British pediatrician, first recognized Attention Deficit Disorder in
1902. Although we still have a lot to learn about the disorder, we have
learned a great deal about the nature of the neuro-biological disorder that we
refer to as ADD or ADHD. One of the things that we have learned is that it
occurs in childhood and persists into adulthood in about 70% of all diagnosed
cases. This disorder affects an adult’s ability to concentrate, control
impulses and stay organized. It impacts one’s ability to function in the
workplace and at home. When these
conditions are undiagnosed, they can place a tremendous amount of burden on
every aspect of an individual’s life. This can make one feel ashamed,
deficient and depressed. People living with this disorder can be greatly helped
by a professional assessment and treatment plan.
The symptoms that
occur in adults vary in type and severity. These behaviors can cause problems at
work, home, and in daily interactions. Some of the common characteristics of
ADHD in adulthood are:
- A short attention
span, especially for mundane day-to-day activities.
beginnings with interest dwindling before completion; poor follow through.
- Tendency toward
impulsive behavior. Tend to make decisions before carefully thinking through
- Might change jobs
- May have trouble
managing money. Tend to overspend and disregard a budget.
- Make repeated
careless mistakes on the job.
skills are limited. Have difficulty listening, tend to interrupt
conversations, and speak without considering the possible reaction of
- May have difficulty
controlling their temper.
- Tend to have a low
maintaining a long-term relationship.
- Greater than
average tendency toward substance abuse.
concentrating when reading- prefers newspaper and/or magazine articles to
disorganized; frequently running late; rushed and unprepared.
- Tendency to over
- Problems with time
management; have difficulty estimating how long a task might take.
- Have difficulty
- Pattern of
achieving less than siblings. Have a history of being told that they are
"not living up to their potential." (Source unknown)
the undiagnosed ADDer, it is easy to look back on their childhood years and see
that they probably felt like they were different in some way. Restlessness,
social awkwardness, distractibility, inability to concentrate can be seen as a
pattern in their childhood. One must
remember that ADD is a lifetime affliction, not something that they just
acquired. Frequently adolescents with unrecognized ADD get further and
further behind in school from not being able to organize their schoolwork,
procrastinating or forgetting to turn in completed assignments. They are seen as
underachievers socially and academically and may express their frustrations in
oppositional or anti social behaviors. They often see themselves as bad and
carry negative attitudes into their adult lives. Oftentimes, the psychological effects of the undiagnosed ADD are worse
than the original limitations of the disorder. These affects are carried on
into adulthood. Jackson and Farrugia (1997) believe that this negative world-view comes
because the adult with ADHD will:
that nobody understands how difficult it is for them to work steadily, become
organized, keep friends and set goals for themselves. They become even more
discouraged when people around them give advice on how they 'should' act and who
they 'should' be."
that even those with coping techniques may be performing far below their
capabilities. This may be due to, in part, the inability to
develop adequate coping mechanisms for prioritizing many tasks and viewing them
as individual pieces rather than the whole. It becomes easy to see how the adult
with ADHD can quickly come to feel inadequate, "embarrassed and
humiliated" by their inability to cope. Hayes (1999) states "adults
with learning disabilities find, too, that their successes or failures in their
personal lives or jobs are more affected by their social skills than by their
As adults, ADDers are more prone to be in the lay off cuts. The most valuable employees are the ones retained. The adult
ADDer often doesn’t see any of their problems on they job. They just aren’t
aware of the “cues” that are given that would indicate that things are not
going well. Other factors in job difficulty include cognitive deficits in
academic, language and verbal learning; short-term memory difficulties;
restlessness, distractibility, impatience; and a low tolerance for frustration.
our solutions for cognitive deficits
Here are some
things to look for that may indicate a problem:
- Lack of eye-contact
from supervisors and bosses
- Less conversation
- Less discussion
about up-coming planning for the job
- Sudden attempts to
identify and "document" employee failures
- Sudden increase in
- Increase general
discussion on difficulties company is having
smarter and not harder may be the answer and to do that will mean a very
thorough assessment of what you do and how you do it.
Solicit support from your friends and those who care about you. Make them part
of the solution instead of part of the problem due to lack of understanding.
Above all accept yourself for who you are and recognize your strengths. Life
needn't be hard, unless we are determined to make it that way.
as adult ADDers need to find ourselves in a career position that will nurture
our strengths and require the least amount of modifications and accommodations.
Our jobs must reflect our strengths. ADDers have unique mental abilities make
them more likely to excel at certain careers: Sales, detective work, entrepreneurs,
and—pay close attention editors—writers! An Adult ADDer is often capable of
doing more than one thing at a time and function better than others under pressure.
Some can be very flexible and open-minded.
We can change strategy on a moments notice and are extremely quick
thinkers. Because our minds "zap" from item to item, we often find
solutions to things that can't be handled by "normal" people. ADD can be used to your advantage when you
people with ADHD have natural talents and abilities that they can draw on to
create fine lives and careers for themselves. In fact, many people with ADHD
even feel that their patterns of behavior give them unique, often unrecognized,
advantages. People with ADHD tend to be outgoing and ready for action. Because
of their drive for excitement and stimulation, many become successful in
business, sports, construction, and public speaking. Because of their ability to
think about many things at once, many have won acclaim as artists and inventors.
Many choose work that gives them freedom to move around and release excess
skills can sometimes be a problem in the workplace. One way to improve these
skills is to consciously practice good communication with friends and family.
If we define communication skills as “the ability to
receive and relay information clearly and effectively”, these skills would include:
- Listening - receives, attends to,
understands and responds to verbal and nonverbal messages
- Speaking - clearly organizes and
effectively presents ideas orally
- Reading - locates, understands, and interprets written
information in prose and documents to perform tasks
- Writing - organizes and effectively
presents ideas and information in writing
- Interpreting - delineates and analyzes
oral and written information and synthesizes information into a conclusion
- Negotiating - works toward agreement
while maintaining position
- Persuading - communicates
ideas to justify position, overcome resistance, and convince others
communication skills not only open up better employment opportunities. Mastering
the art of polite conversation helps in all areas of social interaction - jobs,
relationships, and education... you name it. Communication is the key. If this
is a problem in your life, I’m sure it has a painful affect on personal
relationships too. A healthy relationship requires communication. This is true
for marriages, friendships or parenting.
can be a challenge for people who have AD/HD, but there are some things you can
do to make it easier. First, understand
that AD/HD – yours and/or theirs – can make communication more complicated. "Once
you recognize that interpersonal relationships can and do require 'work' for
those with AD/HD, you may feel less anxious and frustrated," notes Michele
Novotni, an ADD social skills expert. "If your expectation is that
listening is hard, you are more likely to gear up to the challenge. However, if
your expectation is that it should be easy, you may often find yourself
frustrated and overwhelmed."
Novotni's book online at Amazon.com There is a link on our home page to
Within a family
structure including an adult with ADHD, there are also spousal and child
conflicts. The spouse may feel resentful, as if they are parenting an
entertaining but irresponsible child. They may instead feel rejected and angry
if the sufferer engages in activities outside the house or hyper-focuses inside
the house. The spouse also can feel the adult with ADHD does not care about the
family when they fail to complete household tasks continuously.
Couples And ADD
When one partner in the relationship has ADD, it's
critically important for BOTH of them to understand not just how the ADD effects
that person, but also how it effects the relationship.
The partner with ADD
is likely to be less organized, less predictable, and less attentive than the
other one. It can be easy for the non-ADD partner to misinterpret those
behaviors as "not caring" or as being
"passive-aggressive".......that's simply NOT TRUE in most cases!
Most of the time ADD behaviors which cause problems
are not malicious behaviors -- usually it's just a case of the ADD not being managed well and the
person needing to learn more coping skills. It helps to keep in mind a
"biological perspective" though -- that the basis for most ADD
behavior is biological in nature -- it has to do with how the brain works -- and
is NOT usually due to bad intentions or lack of caring!
It's also easy for the non-ADD partner to become
frustrated and fall into a critical/blaming mode of behavior -- that usually
just makes things worse. Sit down and discuss specific behaviors which are
causing problems and then make some changes in how things are done -- like any
couple must do, with or without ADD. Focus on the BEHAVIOR as the problem
though, not the PERSON -- very important distinction! :)
Another problem is
if the non-ADD partner becomes the "rescuer" in the relationship, and
the person with ADD takes on the "helpless victim" role. This is very
bad for BOTH partners involved and will only lead to more problems.
The couple needs to clearly delegate responsibility
for certain duties or jobs, and EACH of them has to follow through on their end
without being babied or bullied by the other. The person with ADD needs to structure the
environment in whatever way he/she needs to make sure that those things get
People with ADD are not
"crippled" in any sense and should never use ADD as an excuse for
irresponsible behavior. If some behavior is a problem.....fix it!! Never
make excuses. (From an ADDA
adult ADHD sufferer needs to feel that he/she can access this care in order to
provide a fuller life for themselves, and for those around them. I highly
recommend checking out our coaching program to help you become more successful in
your everyday life.
ADHD affects the
sufferer throughout the lifespan, from home-life to academics to social
contacts, to risks for other conditions, and finally to self-worth. Whether it
is a label that one gives to their self or a medical diagnosis, we have the
capability to treat this condition.
Many things can be done to help those with
attentional difficulties. There are several good interventions, ranging
from medications to non-medication treatments. We
provide the best of the alternative treatments. They have been heavily
researched and have a consistent record of accomplishment in aiding their users
in obtaining optimum performance. Click on the Home page button to find out the
benefits of our programs.
research related to the treatment of ADHD
FIVE GOOD THINGS ABOUT HAVING ADHD
Famous People and ADD/ADHD
M. L. (1994). Social Skills: The bottom line for adult LD success. Available
online: http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/social_skills/social-1.html [December
Jackson, B, &
Farrugia, D. (1997). Diagnosis and treatment of adults with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Counseling and Development, 75(4), 312-320.
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