Mommy Has ADHD
Not just for kids, this disorder causes problems for adults at work and home
Mommy Has ADHDNot Just for Kids, It’s a Disorder that Can Cause Problems for Adults at Work and at Home
By Triston V. Sanders
You sit at your desk facing a stack of papers. The document on top refers to an e-mail you received weeks earlier. Opening your e-mail, you decide to go ahead and read through the dozens that await you. Then the phone rings. It’s a customer needing information about your company. You need to walk across the office to retrieve a document. On your way, you notice the coffeepot is almost empty, and you decide you may as well make a fresh pot. But before you can add water, a coworker stops you to ask you about a report needed for an upcoming meeting. You walk back to your desk to find a call on hold, the stack of papers untouched and your e-mail overflowing. And where’s that cup of coffee? And why did you walk back to your desk to begin with?
You’ve just had a glimpse into the life of an adult with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Many children with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD. While some children outgrow the disorder, about 60 percent continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
Just ask 47-year-old Melanie Richardson. The Tallahassee secretary says she is convinced she has had ADHD all her life.
“I know this because almost everything I have read or heard about ADHD has caused one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” she explains.
Richardson was officially diagnosed with ADHD in November.
“My diagnosis was a result of my search for answers to why I was unable to keep my attention, memory, focus and energy on being able to just get the daily ‘normal’ stuff of life done,” she says. “My brain never shuts down and jumps from one thought to another all the time; I am ‘in the middle’ of doing several things but not completing any of them.”
Richardson, who has been married for 11 years and has one child, says it’s tough juggling the disorder and a personal life.
“Having ADHD and almost all of the symptoms that come with it does not lend itself very easily to being a mother and wife, not to mention working full time too. It is very difficult – and sometimes even very funny – to have a shorter attention span than your 9-year-old child,” she says. “I never seem to find the time and/or the energy at the same time to do some of the most basic things, and I only have one child and one very small house and almost no outside commitments.
“On the other hand, I am very creative, and I love to have fun and laugh! I can come up with some pretty interesting solutions to the predicaments I put myself and my family through – if I can only find the seven bottles of glue I have around the house somewhere … all in different drawers.”
There are many myths and misconceptions about ADHD – most notably that it is not a disorder at all. But among the National Institutes of Health, the Surgeon General of the United States, and an international community of clinical researchers, psychiatrists and physicians, there is general consensus that ADHD is a valid disorder with severe, lifelong consequences.
Studies over the past 100 years demonstrate that ADHD is a chronic disorder that has a negative effect on virtually every aspect of daily social, emotional, academic and work functioning. Carol Painter, a Tallahassee licensed psychologist and board member of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), says society still is struggling to understand ADHD.
“Although I believe society is aware of its existence and somewhat more willing to acknowledge that the disorder is legitimate, I do not think as a whole society is as informed as is necessary – but improvements are being made regularly,” she says. “Federal law allows for accommodations for students and employees, so this is helping to increase awareness.”
Much research is being done on ADHD. Painter, director of Student Counseling Services at Florida State University’s College of Medicine, says the condition is being studied throughout FSU in various departments, including the College of Education’s Adult Learning Evaluation Center and the psychology department.
Here’s what we do know: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurobiological condition that affects an estimated 3 to 7 percent of the population. In most cases, it is thought to be inherited, and it tends to run in some families more than others. It affects both males and females, as well as people of all races and cultural backgrounds.
There is little question that heredity is the biggest factor. In cases where it isn’t genetic, difficulties during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, premature delivery, significantly low birth weight, excessively high body lead levels, and postnatal injury to the prefrontal regions of the brain all have been found to contribute to the risk for ADHD.
Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD arises from excessive sugar intake, food additives, excessive viewing of television, poor child management by parents, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos.
There is no single medical, physical or genetic test for ADHD. However, a diagnostic evaluation can be provided by a qualified mental health care professional or physician who gathers information from multiple sources. These professionals include clinical psychologists, physicians (psychiatrists, neurologists, family doctors or others) or clinical social workers.
It is common that a person can remain undiagnosed into adulthood.
“Those individuals are often those who manifested little if any hyperactive symptoms that were problematic,” Painter says. “Additionally, individuals who developed effective coping strategies and those with good family structure and support also are often undiagnosed until they began to live independently as adults. For example, we often hear students report that their symptoms were not an impairment until they left for college, or adults might complain that they were functional until they tried to successfully manage the many tasks required in their workplace.”
For adults who have lived with ADHD for years without diagnosis, the disorder can be a significant source of frustration.
“Almost always, these individuals are plagued with internal and external conflict in that they are able to understand at times that they possess the same competencies as their peers, whether in educational or occupational settings or in daily life,” Painter says. “Yet their struggles to follow through can often be a constant source of disappointment to themselves as well as those around them.
“For example, they know they are bright, yet they are unable to achieve consistent with their ability,” she adds. “By the time they reach adulthood, individuals with ADHD, if left undiagnosed until this time, are often suffering from issues of self-worth as well as other coexisting disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Psychological disorders often coexist with ADHD in adulthood due to the difficulty of managing one’s symptoms.”
Like other chronic disorders, ADHD is not curable. Some patients have a remission of the disease and may lead productive adolescent and adult lives. Fortunately, the outlook for people with ADHD is much more positive than it once was. Progress has been made toward better understanding of the illness and its treatment, and scientists are using many approaches to learn more about what causes ADHD. While no single therapy has been found that “cures” ADHD, many people with the condition are able to lead more satisfying lives. The most common treatment options for adult ADHD are medication and behavior modification.
Richardson currently is in counseling and taking medication. She says she believes the treatment is helping her.
“I have good hours, and I have bad hours,” Richardson says. “With ADHD, all aspects of my life are affected, so it is easy to feel that I am really making progress one minute and the very next minute to be sure that I will never be able to do it. Counseling is helping to show me concrete ideas for change, and I feel the medication is helping to make the chemical connections in my brain. Now I just need to continue to keep a positive attitude and remember that slow is OK.”
ADHD treatment is best approached as a partnership between the patient, family and health care professionals. Making sure everyone involved understands his or her contribution to a person’s successful treatment plan is fundamental to symptom management.
Richardson says she is grateful for the support she receives by those around her.
“I love my family, friends and coworkers, and I am blessed and forgiven by them daily,” she says. “I just need to continue to give myself a break and remember that patience is a virtue. After all, it took 47 years to get to today, and it will not be ‘fixed’ instantly.”
Contributing writer Triston V. Sanders is executive producer/news anchor for WCTV. Watch her televised medical segment “Health Matters” weekday mornings on “The Good Morning Show” on WCTV.
How Do I Know if I Need an Evaluation for ADHD?
Most adults who seek an evaluation for ADHD experience significant problems in one or more areas of living. Some of the most common problems include:
• Inconsistent performance in jobs or careers; losing or quitting jobs frequently
• A history of academic and/or career underachievement
• Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities (for example, completing household chores or maintenance tasks, paying bills, organizing things)
• Relationship problems due to not completing tasks, forgetting important things, or getting upset easily over minor things
• Chronic stress and worry due to failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities
• Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt or blame
A qualified professional can determine if these problems are due to ADHD, some other cause, or a combination of causes. Although some ADHD symptoms are evident from early childhood, individuals may not experience significant problems until later in life. Some very bright and talented individuals, for example, are able to compensate for their ADHD symptoms and do not experience significant problems until high school and college, or when they begin a career. In other cases, parents may have provided a highly protective, structured and supportive environment, minimizing the impact of ADHD symptoms until the individual has begun to live independently as a young adult.
(Source: National Resource Center on ADHD)