ADHD After 50

Adult ADHD is Much More Prevalent Than Most People Believe

For many years, it was a common misconception that ADHD was a condition that only occurred in children or teens who would grow out of their symptoms as they became adults. Today, research has shown that ADHD symptoms can persist into adulthood and throughout one’s lifetime. And diagnoses of adult ADHD are on the rise. In fact, it is estimated that 60 percent of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD, which is about 4 percent of the adult population, or 8 million people.

For a number of reasons, less that 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.

ADHD in Older Adults

There are a number of characteristics of ADHD in older adults:

Getting diagnosed can be difficult – Many clinical professionals are unfamiliar with ADHD in adults and may never have seen a case of adult ADHD. In addition, there is a lack of tools designed specifically to diagnose adult ADHD and particular ADHD in older adults. Finally,there may be confusion between whether the symptoms are the result of dementia or mild cognitive impairment or ADHD. Adult ADHD often occurs with co-morbid conditions which can further frustrate attempts at diagnosis. All of these can contribute to a delay in getting a diagnosis of adult ADHD and treatment.

There may be similarities between ADHD in younger and older adults – For example, in college, an individual may feel isolated from his or her support network of parents and friends and the structure of home / school routines, and ADHD symptoms may worsen.  In retirement, older adults may change their living circumstances (e.g., downsizing) and also lose the structure and routine provided by work.  These can adversely affect symptoms.

Older women with ADHD are affected differently than older men with ADHDDiminishing levels of estrogen during peri-menopause and menopause can make ADHD symptoms worse. In addition, the low levels of estrogen can mean that the ADHD medications they have been taking are not as effective.

The outcomes can vary widely – This is especially true of someone with ADHD who has retired . This can a time when they can focus the attention on things they are passionate about. They may also feel freed of the stress of demands on their executive function skills. However, an individual may feel socially isolated and unable to cope with the demands of maintaining a home, managing their healthcare paperwork, etc.

Managing the Symptoms

If you are older individual who has been diagnosed with ADHD, Kara Mayer Robinson of WebMD recommends:

  1. Inform your primary care provider and be sure you are seeing a physician who understands ADHD and its potential impacts older patients.
  2. Stick to the medication regime (if prescribed). it may take some experimentation to get the dosages right, but it could make a big difference in your daily living.
  3. Seek help from a therapist to work on those areas of your life that might need attention – e.g., relationships.
  4. Get coaching to help with improving your executive function skills and manage your daily routines more effectively.

Most importantly, talk to your family and friends and let them know. Their support is key to having a higher quality of life even with a diagnosis of adult ADHD.

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