What Is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to focus, control impulsive behaviors, and sit still. The disorder is diagnosed in both children and adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.5% of U.S. adults live with ADHD or ADHD symptoms.
Symptoms of Adult ADHD
Most people with ADHD have problems that fall into two main categories: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Individuals with symptoms of inattention may:
- Daydream or stare off into space instead of paying attention
- Have trouble staying focused on tasks or conversations
- Seem not to be listening when spoken to directly
- Have difficulty following instructions
- Avoid or procrastinate on tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as homework or completing job applications
- Forget important details or events
- Lose things like school materials, books, keys, or wallets
Individuals with hyperactivity-impulsivity:
- Tend to be in constant motion, often fidgeting or squirming in their seats
- May also have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time
- May talk excessively
- Tend to act without thinking
- Have difficulty waiting their turn or controlling their emotions
Although both groups of symptoms can be disruptive, they often present differently in adults than in children. Children with ADHD are more likely to be hyperactive, while adults are more likely to be impulsive.
As a result, ADHD in adults often goes unrecognized because it does not fit the traditional profile of the disorder. ADHD in adults can still cause significant problems in work, relationships, and other areas of life.
ADHD and Neurotransmitter Regulation
While the exact causes of ADHD are not yet fully understood, research has shown that individuals with ADHD often lack proper regulation of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals are essential in regulating mood, attention, and motivation.
As a result, individuals with ADHD may struggle with impulsivity, hyperactivity, and unfocused behavior. While medication can help improve neurotransmitter regulation in some cases, many people with ADHD find that lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, can help reduce symptoms. In addition, counseling and behavior therapy can also help individuals with ADHD learn coping strategies and develop greater self-awareness.
ADHD and Substance Abuse
There is a strong correlation between ADHD and substance abuse. Studies show that 15.2% of individuals diagnosed with ADHD also have a co-occurring substance use disorder. This number is nearly three times the national average.
Individuals struggling with neurotransmitter regulation often lack the ability to feel pleasure naturally, so they turn to drugs or alcohol to get that feeling. Unfortunately, this self-medicating behavior often leads to full-blown substance use disorders requiring addiction treatment.
The risk for substance abuse is further increased because many people with ADHD also have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. It is estimated that 38.3% of people with ADHD also have a co-occurring mood disorder, compared to 11.1% of the general population.
To avoid developing a substance use disorder, individuals must be aware of the dangers of self-medicating with substances.
Effective Treatments for ADHD in Adults
Many adults struggle to find effective treatments for their ADHD management, as not all treatments work for all people. For example, stimulant medications often treat ADHD symptoms, but they may not be suitable for everyone. Non-stimulant medications, such as antidepressants, can also be effective in treating ADHD. Some people find that a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective approach.
In addition to medication, there are a number of other treatment options that can be effective for adults with ADHD. These include lifestyle changes, such as exercise and sleep hygiene; psychotherapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy; and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.
Finding the right combination of treatments can be challenging, but it is important for individuals to keep trying until they find what works for them.
Time Management and Organization Are Crucial
For adults with ADHD, time management and organization are crucial. Unfortunately, many adults with the disorder struggle with impulsivity, disorganization, and procrastination, making it difficult to manage day-to-day tasks.
There are several different time management and organizational systems that can be helpful for adults with ADHD. Some adults find that using a daily planner or setting regular reminders helps them stay on track. Others find that systems like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves focusing on work for short periods followed by breaks, help them stay focused and avoid burnout. Experimenting with different time management and organizational strategies is often the key to finding what works best for each adult with ADHD.
While there is no cure for ADHD, individuals can learn to manage symptoms and create systems that support mental wellness and optimal functioning. As a result, most individuals with ADHD can live productive and fulfilling lives with proper treatment.
ADHD and Substance Abuse Treatment
ADHD symptoms can interfere with daily life, making it difficult to meet work, school, or family obligations. For many individuals with ADHD, self-medication with substances like alcohol or drugs becomes a way to cope with the challenges of the disorder. This is because substances like alcohol and drugs can help to temporarily improve focus and reduce impulsive decision-making. However, this self-medication comes with a risk of developing substance use disorders. If you or someone you know has ADHD and is using substances like alcohol or drugs to cope, it is important to seek professional help to prevent the development of a substance use disorder. At the Phoenix Recovery Center, we have the capacity and necessary professionals to treat both substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders. Our trained professionals can provide a dual diagnosis, with corresponding treatment methods to treat both issues at the same time.