I don’t know if you realized this, but ADHD just recently become a “thing.” That’s right – not too long ago, ADHD was a dirty word that people didn’t want to talk about, let alone have. This new ADHD perspective has been a real game changer for children and young adults alike, who are now openly admitting to and embracing their diagnosis. Some are even embracing ADHD as their “superpower.” I find this to be amazing and truly advocate for this transformation. However, I also think it’s important to note that as we champion a new outlook, we must not forget about those who existed before this mindset shift.
Back in the day, before ADHD was “cool,” children who had ADHD often suffered in silence. They were labeled the “bad kids” and often got in trouble, but never received a formal diagnosis. Despite the struggle, many survived and even benefited from the challenges that they faced because they adapted.
Whether the adaptation occurred as a result of their own accord or as a result of the resources and assistance provided by supportive parents and teachers, children with ADHD, especially undiagnosed ADHD, learned how to compensate. At the time, they may not have been aware that they were, in fact, compensating for ADHD, but it didn’t matter – they persisted and persevered.
But where are they now?
Now these children are adults who continue to struggle. Unfortunately, some are barely surviving. This is because they learned how to compensate for and/or camouflage their ADHD symptoms rather than receive a formal ADHD diagnosis and utilize the resources available to overcome those symptoms in order to thrive.
But there’s a silver lining. While many of these adults now have children of their own who have been diagnosed with ADHD, they are starting to realize that maybe they weren’t the “bad kids” after all.
As mentioned before, many of the adults who suffered in silence with undiagnosed ADHD often had children of their own that, at some point, are diagnosed with ADHD. In my practice, I have diagnosed hundreds, if not thousands, of children and adolescents with ADHD. During that process there was one question that was almost always asked by concerned parents: “Could I also have ADHD?” Simply put, YES!
The fact, is there is a genetic component to ADHD. ADHD runs in families due to a genetic link. This means that if you have a child with ADHD, it is probable that a close family member also has ADHD, whether that be a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle.
It just is what it is.
Studies have shown that 4.4% of the adult population in the United States have ADHD. However, this statistic can be misleading because adults get evaluated for ADHD far less often. Many believe that the disorder only affects kids, which we know, now, is a myth. The reality is, only 4.4% of adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, but many more may have it and just don’t know it.
There are some very specific situations that may be happening in your life right now that may be influenced by ADHD. Specifically, if you are facing obstacles in any of the below areas and you have a close family member that has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may want to consider if ADHD is currently impacting you:
I hope so. And now that I have your attention you may be wondering how ADHD presents itself in adults (i.e. what can ADHD look like for you?). To be honest, it doesn’t look much different in adults than it does in children and adolescents, although the situations in which it presents itself may be different.
An adult with ADHD may display any or all of the following characteristics:
It is important to note that there is a common misperception regarding ADHD adults. Specifically, people often believe that ADHD adults are irresponsible and selfish. People have a hard time understanding why ADHD adults just can’t, or won’t, “do better.”
Does this sound familiar? If it does, don’t despair because there are more resources available for adults with ADHD than you may realize.
The first step is to see your primary care provider to discuss your concerns. Some doctors may try to minimize your concerns, particularly if you have attained some level of success in your life, but don’t be deterred by that. If you suspect that you have ADHD, insist on being evaluated.
Even if you have been successful up to this point, the sky is the limit when it comes to success – only you can determine just how much you want to achieve.
Believe it or not, individuals with ADHD can be the most successful in their fields, especially when they learn how to leverage ADHD for their benefit. Don’t believe me? Google it and start with Olympic athletes with ADHD.
Next, if you are found to indeed have ADHD, then you may want to consider treatment options. Let’s be clear – medication is NOT the only option to treat ADHD (although in many cases it can be a very good option).
Unlike other medications, ADHD medication differs in that you can often use it as needed (e.g., for a particular day or situation in which you need better focus). You can decide when you want to use it. As an adult, you can control the ADHD medication rather than letting the medication control you.
In addition to medication, there are trained ADHD-specific coaches available to help you determine how ADHD is affecting your life. These coaches can also help you develop solutions to some of your greatest ADHD-induced challenges, which can be accomplished with or without medication.
Bottom Line: If you are an adult and suspect that you may have ADHD, embrace it. Get evaluated and find out for sure. Your diagnosis may be the answer you have been searching for your entire life.
Joni Johnson, MD is a Pediatrician and certified Health and Wellness Coach with over 12 years of clinical experience exclusively supporting individuals with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, mood disorders and behavior problems. In addition to being a physician, Dr. Joni is also a retired Army Colonel, disabled veteran, author, public speaker, entrepreneur and an individual with Dyslexia and a Visual Convergence Insufficiency. As the founder of UnCharted Territory LLC, Dr. Joni serves as a Health Consultant and Empowerment Strategist working with individuals seeking to discover underlying causes for difficulties in home, work, school, and social environments. She provides a roadmap for navigating support services and overcoming obstacles related to treatment plan adherence. Additionally, Dr. Joni’s coaching practice focuses on three areas of health and wellness which include Empowerment, Balance, and Inclusion.
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