Adults with ADHD have a neurochemical imbalance for which new treatments are available. Picture: Pexels
Inconsistency, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness, turning small problems into big ones, self-centredness.

A mature person who has these traits may be suffering from adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Helena Bester, a neurotherapist and leading expert on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), said many adults who suffered from the disorder might not be aware of it. ADHD was a complex disorder with 18 symptoms. The three main ones were inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

“Although, officially, statistics indicate that the incidence of ADHD among adults is lower (than in children), we have to remember that stats are based on those who have been diagnosed. With children it’s anywhere between 5% to 10%; with adults it’s officially 2%. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry ADHD among adults in the US is at 4.4%,” she said.

“We typically see that (adults with ADHD) struggle to hold down a job. They often miss out on promotion because they don’t have endurance and are not consistent in what they do. We often find irresponsible sexual behaviour. A group of them are quite explosive. They won’t be blatantly explosive... but they hold things in and if circumstances are favourable, then they are okay. But when there is a problem, they’ll have these explosive reactions. We also see intermittent explosiveness all day.”

Bester said other indicators were a struggle to manage money and to reach goals. “They have all these good intentions, but never get to it. They have zero concept of time; they’re not governed by the 24-hour cycle that most of us are governed by. They get completely wrapped up in what they are doing. So much so that they even forget to takes breaks or have something to drink. They won’t realise they are thirsty or hungry. Another thing with the ADHD adult is that they don’t do well with problems. When there is a problem that they are supposed to solve as adults, they turn it into a bigger problem.”

Bester said the incidence of ADHD was slightly higher among men, leading to relationship failure. “The divorce rate is much higher among the adult ADHD population. And what is sad is the lack of understanding. The adult ADHD patient may often appear to be self-centred, selfish - people who are not reliable. But that is definitely not the complete picture. Adult ADHD is not just a few symptoms. It’s a neurochemical imbalance. It involves the dopamine structures in the brain and it is treatable. But you can only manage something that you understand.”

As far as treatments go, she said: “Sometimes it is really as simple as getting medication. But fortunately we are not where we were say 10 years ago with ADHD, when medication was basically the only option. Now we also have neurofeedback, which is a viable alternative - a form of brain training or conditioning. Then there are the talk therapies. Often cognitive behaviour therapy works relatively well, to help people manage their lives. It’s also important that they be realistic about getting enough sleep and a healthy diet. There’s a lot that people say about diet and ADHD. The wrong food and incorrect eating habits cannot create ADHD, but they can definitely make the symptoms worse.”

Bester said: “Often the ADHD person has brilliant ideas. They are very creative, often the centre of attention at a party. They are wonderful people. But to live in close proximity with them can be traumatic if the disorder is not understood. You don’t walk around with high blood pressure without getting treatment for it. This is no different and it’s important to have it diagnosed.”

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