Adult ADHD and the role of psychological therapy

Jason Brain

/ Clinical Psychologist

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has traditionally been viewed as a disorder of childhood, with the ‘hyperactive’ subtype (excessively energetic and fidgety) gaining most media attention and discussion. However, there is growing awareness that ADHD may also affect a substantial number of adults, who were either never diagnosed as children (perhaps because they were of the ‘attention deficit’ subtype without hyperactivity), or stopped taking medication for their ADHD as teenagers or young adults because it seemed that they had ‘grown out of it’.

Areas which can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD include

–              Punctuality and other time-estimation

–              Procrastination and avoidance

–              Completing tasks which are important but uninteresting

–              Appropriately stopping what you are focused on and switching attention to a different task

–              Organisation and knowing where things are

–              Following through on long-term projects

While the above issues can affect anyone, a rule of thumb might be that an adult with ADHD might reasonably describe some or all of the above issues as a ‘way of life’ rather than occasional behaviours. Medication can help with managing symptoms of ADHD, but a prolonged period in which a person was not appropriately treated (especially in childhood) can lead to the development of unhelpful habits and skill deficits in the above areas, which medication alone is unlikely to remedy. Because of this, ADHD-specific strategy training with a psychologist can assist people to understand the patterns which lead to their difficulties, and learn more effective ways of dealing with these, whether or not they are currently taking medication.

If you read the above list and thought ‘that describes me perfectly’ despite having made real effort to make changes on your own, you might consider seeking a professional opinion (starting by seeing your GP) on whether you may have ADHD. And if you are diagnosed and/or medicated but still find that the above-listed areas are challenging for you, consider seeking referral to see a psychologist who can work with you to enhance your skills and self-confidence in these areas.