Adult ADHD Treatment Falls Short But Together, We Can Improve It Each October (and All Year Long!)

For many adults, an ADHD diagnosis brings a huge sense of relief. There has always been the underlying sense of something not being right. It’s a daily struggle to meet the expectations of family, friends, employers and most of all myself…  and I repeatedly fall short.

Millions of ADHD adults find the diagnosis liberating, feeling hope after learning that ADHD is a treatable medical condition, and that its symptoms can be managed by various treatments. October is ADHD Awareness Month. Many people and ADHD organizations, led by the coalition of ADDA, CHADD and the ACO, dedicate time and effort to shine light on the realities of ADHD as a medical condition because there is a lack of awareness of adult ADHD as a serious public health issue.

ADHDers face the stigma of ADHD symptoms being judged as a moral failure or weakness in character. For many, charm and a sense of humor have served to put a good spin on the multitude of bad jams, though many ADHDers still face judgement after diagnosis from a society that does not accept ADHD as a medical issue.

ADHD is primarily caused by the brain’s inability to release enough of the brain chemicals, dopamine and nor-epinephrine. This leads to the condition’s primary symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. ADHD is recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education and the American Psychiatric Association. Successful treatments may include medication, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and coaching. It is indeed REAL!

As an older adult diagnosed in 2014, I consistently seek information to help me identify my strengths (I’m already very aware of my weaknesses) and I use them to my advantage in daily life. Working with my psychiatrist and therapist, medication and CBT has drastically improved my life.

However, due to a widespread lack of awareness of ADHD as a medical condition, I still struggle to obtain support from family and friends. We are all familiar with remarks like, “Everybody forgets things once in a while.” I often want to ask if they would say to a person with asthma, “We all run out of breath once in a while.”

It all clicked while I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine who has suffered from crippling anxiety and irregular heartbeat for years. It’s a condition he has treated regularly with medication. After a recent physical exam I asked if he had been referred to a mental health specialist. He replied, “My issues are all physical, not mental.” A light bulb switched on in my brain and I corrected him, “Mental is physical.” It’s that simple!

My family doctor of more than 25 years was stunned to learn of my diagnoses from the psychiatrist and therapist I had recently seen at his behest. He was not taught about ADHD in medical school, but he believes it is a medical condition and he is doubtful ADHD is adequately covered in medical schools’ current curriculum.

While it is clear awareness of adult ADHD is crucial in the acceptance of the validity of mental health as a medical issue, I am very proud to be part of ADDA and to work alongside many brave members of our tribe to shine a bright light on the facts and issues of Adults with ADHD. The ADHD Awareness Month Coalition has chosen “Knowing is Better” as the 2016 theme. I couldn’t agree more!

    • Keith Sumner
    • October 29, 2016

    I was recently assigned to a new Primary Care Provider – A Nurse Practitioner. He seems to care about me as a patient. During our first meeting I needed to have my ADHD meds refilled. He told me he knew very little about ADHD. He wrote my Rx wrong 3 times in a row, even though he simply had to copy it from the computer! He said he’s not comfortable prescribing these meds, so he wants me to see a mental health provider, which I guess isn’t unusual. To his credit, toward the end of our appointment, he told me he thinks I suffer from depression and anxiety – which I do. My wish is that he, and other doctors would understand the complex relationship between ADHD and comorbid issues like depression, anxiety, etc – and how those relate to our more obvious diagnoses like blood pressure, intestinal issues, weight issues, etc., rather than treat everything separately.

      • Brendan Hanna
      • August 10, 2018

      If you could comment more on your experience or share some resources, especially regarding that last sentence about how adhd/depression/anxiety and other conditions are related, that would be super helpful!

    • Susie Mott
    • October 19, 2016

    Great insight!

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