Firstly, let's answer the question 'What is ADHD?'
ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects brain function, how information is processed and behaviour.
As ADHD is a spectrum condition there is no one-size fits all description of symptoms. Every case is unique and there can often be an overlap with other conditions, such as dyslexia or autism.
What are the main symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD is typically characterised by three primary symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. But be warned, as with googling any condition, having some or all of the symptoms does not necessarily mean you have ADHD.
In the case of adult ADHD, individuals often display less hyperactivity and more inattention (difficulty focusing) and impulsivity. It's not uncommon for adults with ADHD to have co-existing conditions such as anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression. But, if this affects you, please read on. There is always something that can be done to help and progress can be made.
The rise in ADHD
The rise in prevalence of ADHD in children and adults is currently receiving a lot of attention in the Press, on TV and on social media. While often linked to the issue of long-waiting lists for NHS assessments, which can take several years, or impacts of the Covid pandemic, or even social media, information can be confusing and, for those unsure of their condition, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best.
Let’s stick to the research:
Dr Doug McKechnie, lead author of a recent study by UCL, (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care), says:
“Whilst ADHD is most likely to be diagnosed in childhood, an increasing number of people are diagnosed for the first time in adulthood. We do not know exactly why this is happening, but it may be that ADHD has become better recognised and diagnosed.”
Clearly, we need more research before we fully understand what is behind the rise in ADHD.
It's important to note that adult ADHD is not a sudden development in adulthood. It was likely present during childhood but unfortunately went unnoticed.
As a sweeping generalisation, at school it has always been easier to spot suspected ADHD in a hyperactive child, than in quieter children who may lose themselves in thought. It is worth noting that girls are particularly at risk of being overlooked.
Many children with ADHD mask their symptoms to fit in at school and through learned behaviours mimic others, so they are seen to be compliant. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult for them to receive the assistance they need. Even with a supportive family, these children may face challenges as adults that reveal the true extent of their difficulties.
For those adults with undiagnosed ADHD, a lifetime of hiding the condition can take its toll and can cause a whole range of unexplained issues, such as:
money issues - forgetting to pay bills or impulsive spending
lack of stability - such as always moving house or changing jobs
social anxiety - driven by their interrupting or overtalking
At Grace, half of our ADHD enquiries relate to helping adults, half of those are female.
Should I get an ADHD diagnosis?
Clearly, this is your call. If you suspect that you have ADHD and the condition is negatively affecting your life in some way, a diagnosis can be extremely beneficial. A diagnosis will help you understand your condition, and where appropriate access support strategies and/or medication. Importantly, where relevant, you can share your diagnosis with your employer, providing them with guidance on the reasonable adjustments they should make to help you achieve your full potential at work.
Many employers are now keen to help their neurodiverse employees, conscious that:
it’s the right thing to do
they’ll benefit from you harnessing your strengths.
It is not possible to self-diagnose adult ADHD as it requires a comprehensive evaluation of your life and personality by a suitably qualified psychiatrist. It may even require input from family members and partners. To receive an accurate diagnosis, the first step is to be seen by your GP who can refer you to a community mental health team. They in turn can make the referral to the ADHD specialist neurobehavioural psychiatrist.
Unfortunately, at the moment accessing adult ADHD services in the NHS can be a postcode lottery with many areas lacking any adult ADHD service; where services do exist, they are rationed and have long waiting lists. However, as mentioned earlier, there is always something that can be done to help and progress can be made. Please don’t hold back from making that first appointment.
How to get help with adult ADHD faster
If you're looking for help with ADHD, Grace Consulting’s Neurodiversity Advisers can assist you. We understand that it can be frustrating to navigate the system, access assessments, and manage conditions, but we're here to make it easier for you.
Grace’s Advisers will listen to you to understand your situation. They’ll explain what help is available, including via the NHS and privately, and will explain the pros and cons of each.
They are experienced in finding the most appropriate assessors for your personal situation and are here to help and guide you through the process. A professional diagnosis can be life changing. In the words of our relieved clients:
“Knowing I do have ADHD means I finally have the clarity I need to move forward.”
“I honestly can't thank you enough for all your amazing support in getting this diagnosis. It's changed my life so much already and I'm really looking forward to using this to start planning for the future.”
Grace Consulting are the UK’s founding providers of expert independent advice on elderly care advice, special needs advice and neurodiversity advice.
Independence and client wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do. We listen, reassure and advise you on how to move forwards and find the best possible solutions for your unique life challenges.