A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, asks:
I’ve been told my entire life by non-professionals that I have ADHD. I tend to twitch a lot and have difficulty staying focused when talking to people. Also, I’ve been told I can’t read social cues. It bothers me, because these words come from people I love. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to give conformed responses, but I tend to say what I think as soon as I think it. This has cost me a few jobs and awkward moments around family too. Do I really have ADHD? Is there a checklist of symptoms?
P.s.: When it comes to working on a project however, I am very, very focused. [I write code for a living.] In personal areas…not so much.
Answered by Dr Fabian Saarloos, Clinical Psychologist, German Neuroscience Center
Someone who suffers from ADHD is often hyperactive and has difficulty concentrating. The most important symptoms of AHDH are:
-Easily distracted and difficulties concentrating,
-Being very busy (hyperactivity),
-Doing things without much thought (impulsivity),
-Difficulties with structured environment or organizing,
-Problems in daily life (e.g. at home, work, social interactions),
-These problems started in childhood.
ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] starts in childhood, but because parenting or school may have put some boundaries or control on ADHD-behaviours, they may be unrecognised until someone reaches adulthood or enters a less structured environment.
Adults with ADHD may come across as less hyperactive than children because they may already have developed or learnt a certain structure or routine for doing things (e.g. through work as they can depend on acquired knowledge), and some people with ADHD can even come across as dreamy or rather absent-minded.
However, all sufferers of ADHD have difficulties concentrating as their brains may still be hyperactive, jumping from thought to thought as they are being over-stimulated (externally or internally).
This frequently leads to difficulties sticking to one idea or task (which then is insufficiently solved), difficulties suppressing or inhibiting emotions and behavior, and thus difficulties planning or organising activities. Adults suffering from ADHD can thus come across as chaotic and restless, easily frustrated and impatient, impulsive or spontaneous, reckless, and difficult to follow or even understand.
They may talk a lot and fast, their sentences may at times even seem incoherent and jumping from topic to topic. They may have difficulties dealing with money, maintaining relationships, keeping a job, or dealing with institutions and authority. Therefore, they are likely to get into problematic situations, and they have a higher chance of developing secondary mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or even personality disorders and addictions.
Despite questionnaires and self-tests being available online, the clinical diagnosis of ADHD is rather a complex process, involving interviews, observations, psychological and neuropsychological assessments, and psychiatric evaluation.
If you believe you might be suffering from ADHD, and people in your environment recognise these concerns, then consulting a GP and being referred to a psychiatrist and/or psychologist who is trained clinically in recognition, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is advised.
They can offer you various types of evidence-based treatments which have shown to improve control over problematic behavior as well as cognitive or emotional problems. In particular in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) people who suffer from ADHD can gain more insight and understanding into their their disorder/s, and learn to better structure, plan and organise their daily tasks/activities, better regulate their emotions, and think in more functional ways.
They thus learn how to better use and develop their strengths, while controlling or reducing their weaknesses.
Frequently, pharmacological treatment (e.g. methylphenidate) by a psychiatrist is indicated in order to create more calm in the brain by slowing down thinking (thus improving cognitive control and concentration.
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