To be diagnosed with adult ADHD, an adult must have had ADHD symptoms that began in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. The mental health professional will look into the person’s history of childhood behaviour and school experiences. Family and close friends may also be interviewed, following which there may be a physical examination and various psychological testing.
Although ADHD symptoms may decline with age, studies on adolescents and adults with ADHD in childhood have shown that a substantial proportion continue to experience ADHD symptoms, exhibit pervasive conduct problems and show poorer academic and occupational functioning. In fact, studies on ADHD have shown that up to 80% of children with ADHD continued to have some form of impairment as adults.
ADHD is associated with other impairment including work difficulties, road traffic accidents as well as increase in rates of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. It has also been shown that youth and young adults with ADHD are often peer-rejected and observed to have poor social skills and as such, have problems with the quantity and quality of their friendships.
Many adults with ADHD also have co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, impulse control disorders and substance use disorders.
Treatments for ADHD in adults are similar to treatment in children (medications and behavioural modifications). However, it must be bore in mind that co-morbid psychiatric conditions in ADHD are the rule rather than the exception. Adults with undiagnosed ADHD and comorbidities are likely to seek treatment because of problems associated with a co-occurring disorder, not because of ADHD symptoms per se. Adults should be screened carefully for ADHD as well as for mood, anxiety, substance use, personality, and impulse control disorders to begin to comprehensively address their condition.