A diagnosis of ADHD for an adult can lead to a sense of disbelief quickly followed by relief. That’s according to a new study of adult ADHD carried out by researchers at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. The study was done in collaboration with the Irish National Council of AD/HD Support Groups (INCADDS).
“Many people have struggled all their lives with the difficulties of ADHD. Its only when they are diagnosed as adults do they realise that they can now name something that has affected them since childhood,” explains the author of the study, Dr Pádraig Mac Neela, a Lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway and member of the University’s Institute for Lifecourse and Society.
He continued: “There are three types of Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For the inattention type of ADHD the main feature is distractibility, organisation, and sustained concentration. The hyperactive / impulsive form of ADHD is marked by high levels of activity, talking and difficult sitting still. The mixed form involves both of the other types together.
It is now recognised that ADHD persists into adulthood for up to two-thirds of people who experienced it in childhood. Yet it often goes undiagnosed in childhood, leaving many people unprepared for how they should adapt to manage college, employment and family life. Many doctors, teachers, employers and family members are unaware of ADHD as an adult condition and do not know how to support someone who is affected by it.”
The researchers interviewed 19 adults with ADHD in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. They were asked about how ADHD has affected their lives and how they have learned to live with the condition. Only three had a diagnosis of ADHD as children—for the others finding out about ADHD and getting a diagnosis took some years. The average age of diagnosis was 40.
ADHD affected their school and college performance, and continued to impede them later in work. Many of the participants had formed a negative view of themselves because they were unable to conform to societal expectations. Some had problems finding a doctor who accepted the idea of adult ADHD. In a majority of cases the diagnosis had come by going the private route to pay for the assessment required. There was concern and stress associated with finding out about having a mental health condition. Yet being able to label it enabled the participants in the study to take more control in their lives. Medication was helpful for some, but all of the participants found benefit from re-thinking the past and identifying positive aspects of ADHD.
The study participants were often helped by friends, family and health professionals in putting together the pieces after learning about ADHD. First and foremost they had to rely on themselves to find their way to living with ADHD, not least because of a lack of specialised services and supports for adult ADHD in Ireland.
A full copy of Finding Your Way With ADHD: A Study of The Struggle, Supports and Solutions Experienced by Adults With ADHD can be found at incadds.ie.