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Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults (ADD)

What is ADD?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD) is a neurological condition involving the underactivity in the frontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for the regulation of attention, impulse control and motor activity. This area also plays a role in the regulation of emotions. The condition is largely inherited and tends to run in families. The symptoms and problems begin in childhood and continue, in varying degrees, for many individuals throughout the adult life.

ADD and the Family
As with general intelligence, math skills, athletic ability, artistic talent, etc., many researchers believe that the abilities and limitations that comprise ADD are largely inherited and passed down from generation to generation. Some have suggested that as many as 80% of ADD cases are the result of genetics with the remainder caused by toxins, trauma or illnesses introduced during pregnancy, delivery or the newborn period. If a family member has been diagnosed with ADD, there is a greater possibility that a sibling, parent, child or blood relative also has ADD.

Until about the last decade, it was believed that ADD was a disorder limited to childhood which would disappear in adolescence. Research and clinical work have proven otherwise. It is now known that many individual's symptoms continue into adulthood and create significant problems in adult life. It frequently creates difficulties in managing the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of everyday life, such as work, school, marriage, running a household, parenting and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, perhaps millions of American adults have ADD and have not been identified or treated successfully.

Adult Indicators
Symptoms and problems are often unique and may vary in type, number and intensity from person to person. ADD is complex and no two individuals are exactly alike.
Some indicators that can be suggestive of ADD:

  • Easily distracted; forgetful; daydreaming
  • Procrastination; inability to complete things
  • Disorganization; messiness; clutter
  • Difficulty with making decisions
  • Behavioral or verbal impulsiveness
  • Difficulty with expressing thoughts in speech or in writing
  • Significant periods of depression; low self-esteem
  • A sense of failure; not living up to one's potential
  • A sense of being different, unconventional
  • A sense of internal restlessness; constantly active
  • Difficulty with falling asleep or waking up alert
  • Very sensitive to being told to do something, teasing, criticism, rejection or anger
  • A sense that your mind is always active; thoughts jumping from one topic to the next
  • Easily bored; intense need for excitement
  • Difficulty with following rules
  • Very impatient; low frustration tolerance
  • Emotionally sensitive; easily upset, depressed, hurt or angered
  • Difficulty with personal or work relationships
  • Frequently late or rushed
  • Difficulty in estimating how much time something will take
  • Impulsive spending and money management problems
  • Personal or family history of substance abuse, depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension or retention
  • Frequently changing jobs, interests or activities
  • Frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Perfectionistic tendencies
  • Strong need to control or have things your way

A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to accurately establish a diagnosis, rule out other causes for the problems and determine if there are any co-existing conditions. ADD cannot be self-diagnosed and requires an evaluation by professionals with special knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating ADD. It is commonly overlooked or obscured by other significant difficulties or emotional problems. For adults suspected of ADD, the evaluation would include a family, childhood and school history to determine the presence of symptoms and problems commonly experienced during childhood as well as a detailed review of the person's adult history to identify symptoms and problems typically experienced by ADD adults.

Most experts in the field of ADD endorse a multi-modal approach to treatment. Medications, if indicated, often will provide positive results but are not the sole answer to treatment. Individuals and families require education about ADD, its causes and the development of compensatory skills to overcome specific problem areas in the person's life. This might include: how to become more organized and successful in accomplishing tasks that need to be done; overcoming procrastination; eliminating clutter; controlling impulsive spending and managing money; developing time management skills; improving interpersonal relationships; acquiring communication skills; managing your mood; and becoming more effective as a parent or spouse. Also, ADD does not exist in a vacuum. Co-existing problems (anxiety or depression; substance abuse; low self-esteem; family or marital discord; work or school problems; conflict with others, etc.) may need to be addressed.

ADD Resources

Web Sites

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

LD Online
Interactive guide to learning disabilities for parents, teachers and children

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association

The external sites linked to on this Web site are not necessarily endorsed by Akron General. The information on Akron General's Web pages should not be considered specific medical advice and is not meant to replace professional medical service.

The following resources are available at Akron General's Community Health Library. For more information or to request specific literature information, call Akron General's Community Health Library at 330.344.BOOK (2665).

A.D.D. Book: New Understandings, New Approaches to Parenting Your Child
Little, Brown & Co, 1998 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WS 350.8.A8 S439a 1998

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults
Oxford Uni Press, 1995 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WL 354 W469a 1995

Beyond Ritalin: Facts about Medication and other Strategies for Helping Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders
HarperPerennial, 1997 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WS 350.8.G213r 1997

Down and Dirty Guide to Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
GSI Publications, 1996 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WL 354 G664d 1998

Helping Your Hyperactive ADD Child
Prima Publishing, Rev 2 ed 1997 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WS 350.8.A8 T243h 1997

Learning Disabilities and ADHD: a Family Guide to Living and Learning Together
John Wiley & Sons, 1997 Pbk
Located on our shelves at: WS 350.8.A8 O83L 1997

Running on Ritalin: a Physician Reflects on Children, Society and Performance in a Pill
Bantam Books, 1998 HC
Located on our shelves at: WS 350.8.A8 D578r 1998

They Don't Come with Manuals: Parenting Children with Disabilities
A film by Paul Uzee Fanlight Productions Color 29 mins

Journal of School Health
American School Health Association
Monthly Holdings: Jan 1999 - Current

 Date Updated: 18-APR-2016


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