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Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder affects 4 to 5 percent of adult Americans. Find out more about ADHD symptoms, and how to treat this mental illness.

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Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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What is ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), previously known as attention-deficit disorder, is a mental health disorder affecting between 4 and 5 percent of adult Americans.

ADHD is a mood disorder that affects attention and behavior. Adult ADHD can lead to poor work performance, unstable relationships, self-harming behaviors, substance abuse, and low self-esteem.

ADHD is more common in children, but it is sometimes not recognized or diagnosed until adulthood.

Symptoms of ADHD

Although some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they reach adulthood, some adults may have major symptoms that interfere with their daily lives and responsibilities.

The main symptoms of ADHD in adults include difficulty concentrating and paying attention, and impulsiveness and restlessness.

Adults with ADHD may experience the following symptoms:
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Problems planning and prioritizing
  • Procrastination
  • Poor time management
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to cope with stress
Symptoms can be mild to severe.

Many adults are not aware they have ADHD. All they know is that everyday tasks such as meeting deadlines or prioritizing can be challenging. They may also experience extreme mood swings and outbursts of anger, which leads to problems in their personal and working relationships.

Although almost everyone has symptoms that are similar to ADHD at some point in their adult lives, there are ways of differentiating symptoms of the disorder from regular behavior.

  • If symptoms are recent and only occur occasionally, they are probably not ADHD symptoms. Symptoms of ADHD in adults can often be traced back to childhood.


  • Symptoms need to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of the person’s life. They are persistent and disruptive.


  • Many adults with ADHD have at least one other mental health disorder, such as anxiety , depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What Causes ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD are not known, although studies into its causes or risk factors continue.

Some factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD include:
  • Genetics: Some research has shown that genes may play a role in the development of ADHD. It has been known to run in families. The risk of ADHD may increase if a parent or sibling has it.


  • Environment: Certain environmental factors, such as exposure to toxic substances like lead paint as a child, may increase the risk of developing ADHD.


  • Developmental problems: Some people with ADHD had mothers who smoked, drank, or took drugs during pregnancy. Problems with or injury to the central nervous system at key developmental milestones may increase the risk of developing ADHD.

ADHD and Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD does not cause other mental illnesses, but other disorders have often been noted as occurring along with ADHD.

Common co-occurring disorders with ADHD include:
  • Mood disorders: Adults with ADHD are also commonly diagnosed with mood disorders such as depression or  bipolar disorder. Although these disorders are not necessarily linked to ADHD, the repeated disappointments and failures resulting from ADHD can lead to worsened symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts.


  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders may cause feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear and are quite commonly seen in adults with ADHD. ADHD may not cause anxiety disorders, but its effects on personal and social well being often worsen anxiety and the symptoms of anxiety disorders.


  • Learning disabilities: Adults with ADHD may have learning disabilities that include problems understanding and communicating. This is usually a result of the inability to concentrate and focus on one task or prioritize that are symptoms of ADHD.

Substance Abuse and ADHD

People with ADHD may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with symptoms. Some may abuse the stimulants prescribed to treat their ADHD, leading to addiction.

Studies have shown that ADHD is five to 10 times more common in alcoholics and that 25% of adults being treated for alcohol and substance abuse have ADHD.

Diagnosing ADHD

It can be difficult to identify the symptoms of ADHD in adults. However, it is important to note that ADHD should be suspected if the core symptoms started before the age of 12.

In order to diagnose ADHD, the mental health practitioner will need to:
  • Conduct a physical exam to rule out any other possible causes of symptoms


  • Ask for detailed information about personal and family medical history, as well as the history of symptoms


  • Perform psychological tests in the form of talk therapy in order to evaluate information about your symptoms and how they would occur in the context of ADHD

To receive an accurate diagnosis for a mental health disorder, one must always visit a qualified mental health treatment facility or practitioner.

Many ADHD symptoms mimic other medical conditions, including:
  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, learning and language deficits, conduct disorders, and other mental illnesses


  • Medical problems that can affect behavior and thought patterns, such as brain injury, low blood sugar, seizure disorders, thyroid problems, or developmental disorders


  • Medications and illicit drugs

ADHD Treatment

Primary treatments for ADHD include medication and psychotherapy. The most effective way of treating ADHD is with a combination of medication and talk therapy.

Although these treatments may help to manage symptoms, ADHD can never be cured. The goal is to manage symptoms effectively so that the person with ADHD can live a normal life with minimal disruption.

Medications for ADHD

The mental health clinician will work with the patient in order to find the right medication and dosage. Medications commonly used in treating ADHD include:

  • Stimulants boost and balance neurotransmitters in the brain and are the most commonly prescribed medication for treating ADHD. Common stimulants used in ADHD treatment include methylphenidate or amphetamine. Prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are among the most commonly prescribed.


  • Non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine may be prescribed, particularly when the individual cannot take stimulants because of health problems. Stimulants should also be avoided if the individual is at a higher risk of developing a stimulant addiction.

Psychotherapy for ADHD Treatment

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a highly effective tool in treating ADHD. During therapy, the individual will learn more about the disorder and will be taught coping skills for living with ADHD and managing symptoms.

The goal of psychotherapy in treating ADHD is to:
  • Help the person with ADHD develop time management and organizational skills
  • Learn how to reduce impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Learn better problem-solving skills
  • Get over past work, academic, social, or relationship failures
  • Learn how to improve and sustain relationships with friends, family, and co-workers
  • Develop strategies for controlling mood swings and angry outbursts
  • Building self-esteem and confidence

The most common form of psychotherapy used to treat ADHD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps the patient manage behavior and thinking patterns while learning better coping skills and strategies for dealing with challenges.

Get Help for Adult ADHD

Getting help for ADHD means living a healthy, functional life free from sometimes debilitating ADHD symptoms. Left untreated, ADHD can have a serious impact on personal, social, and mental wellbeing and can even lead to substance abuse and self-harm.

At Addiction Rehab Treatment, we specialize in treatment for mental illness co-occurring with substance abuse. If you are worried that you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, as well as mental illness, get help sooner rather than later.

We are here to help you 24/7. Get in touch with us, and one of our compassionate treatment navigators will guide you to the right treatment facility for your particular symptoms and concerns.

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