Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a neurological condition that is associated with impulsivity, inattentiveness, and poor social interaction. Both children and adults can suffer from ADD, but in most cases, symptoms start from childhood. In fact, in some cases, ADD in childhood can persist into adulthood. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), more than 30 percent of adults diagnosed with ADD had suffered from the condition since childhood. Sometimes, the condition may have not been diagnosed until later in life.
Children with ADD may experience learning challenges and are often struggling with disciplinary issues at school. Their desks and assignments may look disorganized. Teachers may assume that such students are rude or just lazy to follow through with their assignments. In adults, one may frequently miss deadlines.
This condition is usually referred to as ADHD. The term ADD is often used to refer to someone with this nuanced neurological condition but without the hyperactivity component. Patients with ADD are generally non-disruptive in school or place of work. ADD treatment may therefore slightly differ from that of ADHD.
Just like many mental disorders, ADD shares symptoms with several other conditions. Psychiatric conditions with similar symptoms include antisocial personality, learning disorders, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, and depression. ADD can also share symptoms with medical conditions such as thyroid disease, learning impairment, sleep apnea, and lead toxicity. Likewise, some substances like antihistamines, caffeine, steroids, nicotine, and anticonvulsants may have similar symptoms. Thankfully, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition (DSM-V) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This edition adjusted the criteria for ADD diagnosis.
A person with ADD may display the following symptom:
- Avoid chores that require a lot of mental effort. When they a task, they don’t finish it
- Difficulties in paying attention. Even when one seems to be paying attention, he/she doesn’t focus on the details
- Easily distracted
- Struggle following instruction
- Often lose vital things
- Doesn’t appear to be listening. They ignore the speaker even when he/she is speaking directly to them.
- Appear disinterested
- Makes careless mistakes
While many children may display the above symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have ADD. In most cases of ADD, these symptoms should have persisted for at least 6 months. The symptoms should also have occurred in different settings, such as at home, in school, or when with friends. Perhaps even more important is that there should be evidence that these symptoms interfere with their normal functioning. That is why a compressive diagnosis is essential.
To diagnose ADD, a patient needs to have a full medical examination. The medical evaluation may include vision and hearing tests, Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid scan, and patient’s medical history check. Besides this, your doctor may also talk to your child’s teachers or school counselor.
The psychologist will then analyze the results to see if they fit the criteria for ADD. From this point, ADD can be differentiated from other similar conditions. For adults, the symptoms should have occurred before seven years. Unfortunately, some adults may not recall their childhood symptoms. That is why the DSM-V symptom guide is usually technically irrelevant for adults.
Diagnosing ADD in Adults
In some people, ADD may not manifest until adolescence, or sometimes even later in life. In fact, some adults might only recognize ADD symptoms when their children are diagnosed with the condition. In other cases, they might suspect they suffer from ADD only to find it is a mental disorder with symptoms similar to those of ADD. Based on this, sometimes it is not easy to diagnose ADD in adults.
Besides inattentiveness and lack of interest, adults with ADD may also have other underlying issues, such as
- Forgetfulness and chronic lateness
- Short temper
- Poor organizational skills
- Difficulty in finishing tasks
- Low self-esteem
These symptoms can range from mild to chronic. This depends on your environment and unique psychology. For this reason, some people may only be mildly inattentive when doing tasks they don’t like. Some of these symptoms may fade away with age. However, those who experience severe symptoms may have challenges with their normal lives. When neglected, these issues may cause occupational, academic, and social difficulties in adults.
ADD diagnosis in adults can only be concluded after a careful clinical interview. For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor may have to perform the following evaluation:
- Try to understand the history of your behavior since childhood
- Conduct a thorough examination like neurological testing
- Interview your parents, life partners, friends, and other close associates
- Perform psychological testing
ADD Treatment: Managing ADD Symptoms
After the diagnosis of ADD, your doctor may recommend several treatment options. But be sure to get the correct diagnosis from a specialist. Some general practitioners may overlook co-existing conditions. Some may not differentiate your situation from other conditions with overlapping symptoms.
Add may be treated using stimulant drugs such as Ritalin. Some stimulant medications may help young learners to stay active and focused in school. The only challenge is that some stimulant drugs have been associated with side effects. That is why many parents are hesitant when it comes to using Ritalin to manage ADD.
A majority of psychologists prefer behavioral intervention to stimulant medications. Behavior intervention plans should help a patent acquire some adaptive behavioral skills and minimize inattentive habits. Most people find this approach more helpful, especially when you consider that some patients diagnosed with ADD may not have the condition. Behavior intervention therapies will help anyone with undesirable behaviors, regardless if the person has ADD or not. Moreover, behavioral intervention strategies produce long-term results. Adjustment of habits may lead to a permanent improvement in alertness, something that drugs cannot offer.
Understanding your type of ADHD and its symptoms is just one step close to finding the right ADD treatment. So, if you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor to give you an accurate diagnosis. For some cases, your primary-care doctor may recommend a psychiatrist trained in the idiosyncrasies of ADD. Whether you suspect you have ADD or have a history of the condition, early intervention will prevent any detrimental effects of ADD.