“Karen’s Noggin’ 🧠 Nuggets” #22 ~ October 5, 2022
ADHD IN OLDER ADULTS!
In today’s ADHD Awareness blog, we’ll dig into ADHD in older adults and you might be surprised by what we find. I’m not sure what age is considered ‘older’ adults but for this blog, I’ll throw myself in this category.
As I learned an abundance of information on this subject in my classes with Laurie Dupar, Owner and Director of iACTcenter.com The International ADHD Coach Training Center, I knew I had to get this information out somehow. I never imagined it would be through a blog, but that seems to be the best vehicle at this time. Thank you for your interest in this important topic that is getting overlooked.
In the late 1960s, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) formally recognized ADHD as a mental disorder in adults. 60 years later, ADHD is still significantly underdiagnosed, misunderstood, and untreated for adults.
Over 30 years later, a survey from the United States reported a 6-fold increase between 1994 and 2009 in the proportion of psychiatrist office visits with adult clients seeking an ADHD diagnosis.
Prescription rates doubled for adult ADHD between 2004 and 2009 in the United Kingdom, increasing the frequency of identifying ADHD in adults who were never treated as children.
Many adults worldwide with ADHD were unaware they had ADHD as children. They knew and experienced everyday tasks as complex, complicated, and exhausting. As adults, challenges continued difficulty focusing and prioritizing, time unawareness, procrastination, drug misuse, forgetfulness, social challenges, financial problems, low self-esteem, missed, forgotten, late arrivals, impulsivity, restlessness, boredom, impatience, mood swings, irritability, and outbursts of anger.
Undiagnosed adults with ADHD have suffered the devastating effects of a lifetime of misunderstanding, being wrong, doing it wrong, being told they are wrong, stigma, low self-esteem, unworthiness, and shame. Instead, adults with ADHD tend to attribute their shortcomings to personal, moralistic, intellectual, and character flaws.
Once diagnosed, many adults experience tremendous relief with the understanding that ADHD is a medical condition and not, as one of the first popular books on ADHD describes, “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!” by Kate Kelly https://www.amazon.com/You-Mean-Lazy-Stupid-Crazy/dp/0743264487
As someone who was first diagnosed at the age of 32 and then diagnosed again at 58, I can tell you it has been a huge relief now as I’m learning more about ADHD and how my brain works.
Even for adults who seem to have “outgrown” symptoms, ADHD doesn’t disappear. Although the signs may be less evident as adults age due to their ability to control their environment and choose how they spend their time, ADHD lingers. An adult ADHD diagnosis is typically made when they can no longer cope or manage the challenges, behaviors, and symptoms. This is what Laurie calls “The Tipping Point”.
I hit my tipping point in 2021 and I’m glad I did. Because now I have incredible information to share that might help others.
Inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior are only the tip of the iceberg of living with ADHD. The challenges and struggles and inability to meet others’ expectations turn into self-blame, shame, lack of self-esteem, frustration, hopelessness, and feelings of being “broken.
Hang on! It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s GREAT NEWS! No one is too old to learn about their ADHD brain or design strategies that work for them, thrive, and achieve a great life.
However, adults who go undiagnosed and untreated often due to co-occurring mental health conditions and lifestyle behaviors can mask the symptoms of ADHD. These include:
- Impulsiveness, hyperactivity, inattentiveness
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing.
- Poor time management skills
- Problems focusing on a task
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance
- Financial challenges, difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment
- Frequent mood swings, emotional dysregulation
- Problems following through and completing tasks.
- Hot temper
- Trouble coping with stress
- Difficulties with all types of relationships (friendships, romantic, familial, etc.)
- Vulnerability to anxiety, mood disorders, addiction, impaired driving safety, and even premature death from accidents.
- Some research says between 25% and 40% of adults in prison have ADHD — most of whom are undiagnosed and untreated. The same study suggests that if those people had been diagnosed earlier and received treatment for their ADHD, the actions or behaviors that led to their jail time might not have happened.
- Psychologist Dr. Charles Barkley Says Life Expectancy is Diminished in the Worst Cases for Those With ADHD
ADHD challenges or symptoms don’t go away once your ADHD is diagnosed and medically treated started. But it sure makes a big difference once you can get the right medicine, the right dosage, and taking it at the right time. There are usually many strategies, skills, and emotional impacts remaining for which counseling and or coaching can help.
We are only just starting to appreciate the unique challenges of aging and ADHD. Persons being diagnosed with ADHD ages 60 and up are discovering their ADHD due to a family member’s ADHD diagnosis.
What Does ADHD Look Like in Older Adults?
Preliminary research is beginning to paint a picture of what ADHD looks like in adults over 60. ADHD can look markedly different throughout a person’s lifetime. These changes continue when a person enters midlife and beyond. While each person is unique, the following examples appear relatively consistently in older adults with ADHD:
- “Swiss cheese memory,” or a memory that is not consistently failing but also can’t be reliably counted on. She said certain things are easy to remember for her subjects while others slip through the cracks.
- Other working memory issues such as being easily thrown off course mid-task
- Misplacing items
- Forgetting words or names
- The brain goes “blank” periodically.
- Difficulty learning new things
- Talking too much, often without realizing it
- Interrupting others
- Trouble following conversations
- Difficulty maintaining relationships and keeping in touch.
- Difficulty maintaining order within their homes
- Tremendous struggles to make ends meet financially after a lifetime of poor money management
If you know an older adult that you suspect has ADHD, here are ways that you can support them.
- Learn the actual symptoms of ADHD
- Understand the potential impairments of ADHD on the person and family
- Acknowledge the impact ADHD has on you
- Assess your loved one’s readiness to change
Remember, there’s good news as some older adults are getting the diagnosis and treatment they never realized they needed and are living their lives to their fullest potential with joy and happiness! There’s hope for those that have yet to be diagnosed.
What can you do to bring awareness to ADHD in Older Adults? Is there someone you can share this information with? Just by reading this information the awareness of this subject has increased in one person. Good job! 🥳 If you would like more information on this subject you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information if you would like to work with a Life Coach to work through some struggles or have someone beside you as you navigate this life, contact me at https://happybrainlifecoach.com/
Thank you for reading “Karen’s Noggin’ 🧠 Nuggets” #22 ~ October 5, 2022