Hello! Welcome to my new post series Adulting With ADHD. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting a series of articles all about ADHD with a particular focus on adults with ADHD.
Over the past couple months, I’ve had a few people in my life learn that they are ADHD. Unfortunately, when I tried to find things online to help them out, most of what I found was geared towards children. Almost every post about managing ADHD is written for parents of ADHD kids, echoing the common misconception that ADHD is a kids’ thing.
Yet, ADHD is a lifelong condition that may not even be recognized until a person is an adult. So where are all the resources for those of us who are adults trying to do this whole adulting thing with brains that work differently from what is considered typical?
In the absence of such materials, I have decided to create them myself.
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the basics of ADHD, what to do if you suspect that you are ADHD, some of the lesser known aspects of ADHD (emotional dysregulation, RSD, etc.), as well as coping tools and strategies actually designed for adults.
Today, we’re just going to look at the basics of what ADHD is. In the next post, we’ll delve into some of the myths and stereotypes surrounding ADHD as well as the truths that lie beneath.
What is ADHD?
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder (a category that also includes autism, learning disorders, and intellectual disabilities among others). In fact, at least 1 in 10 people have ADHD brains!
So what is a neurodevelopmental disorder? Neurodevelopmental disorders are a group of disorders which manifest during early development, typically prior to beginning school (however, just because traits may appear at a young age does not mean these traits will be recognized by others or diagnosed). Diagnoses under this classification are marked by developmental differences that lead to impairments in personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning.
In other words, a neurodevelopmental disorder is a brain difference that shows very early in life and leads to difficulties in at least one area of the person’s life.
ADHD is primarily defined by difficulties with attention regulation (as is evident by the name). The other most recognized components of ADHD are hyperactivity and impulsivity. These traits lead to difficulties functioning in the expected ways within society without supports.
However, as we will be exploring in later posts in this series, ADHD affects far more than just our ability to pay attention. Emotional dysregulation, rejection sensitive dysphoria, executive dysfunction, and more are all a part of ADHD and can affect us just as much, if not more, than attention regulation difficulties.
Whatever happened to ADD?
When the DSM-IV was introduced in 1994, the ADD (attention-deficit disorder) was absorbed into ADHD which was given subtypes. A diagnosis of ADD prior to this change is most likely equivalent to ADHD primary inattentive type.
What are the types of ADHD?
- ADHD- Primarily Inattentive Type: this type is characterized by difficulty focusing on things that are important to focus on and focusing too much on things of interest.
- ADHD- Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type: this type is characterized by hyperactive and impulsive behaviors
- ADHD-Combined Type: this type is a combination of symptoms from Inattentive Type and Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
- Please note, a diagnosis of Primarily Inattentive or Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive does not mean that a person does not have traits of the other, but rather that there are not enough traits of the other to qualify as combined type
What are the traits of ADHD?
The traits of ADHD are often defined using the DSM criteria. These traits are broken into two categories: Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity. The following are the DSM-V criteria for ADHD in simplified language:
- Often shows a lack of attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities
- Often has difficulty paying attention to important tasks or desired activities
- Often appears to not listen when spoken to directly
- Often has difficulty completing tasks (loses focus, becomes side-tracked, etc.)
- Often has difficulty with organization
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require long periods of mental effort
- Often loses things
- Easily distracted (by own thoughts or things in the environment)
- Often forgetful in daily activities
- Often fidgets/stims
- Often has difficulty sitting when expected
- Often feels restless (may include running around or climbing in situations where this is not appropriate)
- Often has difficulty being quiet when expected
- Very active
- Often talks more than is considered socially acceptable
- Often answers questions before the question has been completed
- Often has difficulty waiting
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others
To be diagnosed with Primarily Inattentive Type, one must have at least six traits of inattention if ages 16 or younger or at least five traits if over the age of 16. Traits must have been present for at least 6 months and are atypical for developmental stage.
To be diagnosed with Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, one must have at least six traits of hyperactivity if ages 16 or younger or at least 5 traits if over the age of 16. Traits must have been present for at least 6 months and are atypical for developmental stage.
To be diagnosed with Combined Type, one must have at least six traits of inattention AND six traits of hyperactivity (five if over the age of 16). Traits must have been present for at least 6 months and are atypical for developmental stage.
In the next installment of Adulting With ADHD, we’ll be looking at some common myths and stereotypes surrounding ADHD.