It is estimated that around 4 to 5% of U.S. adults are living with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But, with that being said, it’s thought that many adults who have this condition don’t actually get diagnosed or treated for it, which means there may be more people who have ADHD than we are aware of.
The adults who do know they have ADHD might have been aware of their condition since childhood, since that is when it is most often detected. Some, though, might have thought that they would outgrow the condition. But most research points to the fact that it is rarely outgrown. ADHD symptoms can continue into adolescence and adulthood, although the symptoms might look different at different stages of life. So, what can you expect as an adult living with ADHD?
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which are considered chronic and debilitating, and can lead to low self-esteem, among other issues. It is often first identified in school-age children when it leads to disruption in class or problems with school work. It commonly affects boys more often and/or is diagnosed more in boys than in girls.
One study found that ADHD symptoms are often worse in children aged 6 to 8, and gradually decline around age 11. Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity were more likely to decline with age. While symptoms of inattention were more likely to persist.
People with ADHD of the inattentive type have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks, and often forget routine chores (such as paying bills on time or returning phone calls).
Many children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to have the disorder later in life, and some may require ongoing treatment. In fact, many people with ADHD might not be diagnosed until their teenage or adult years. This is especially true for girls and women, who are more likely to experience inattentive ADHD. Which tends to be harder to detect. Typically, adults with ADHD are treated with medicine, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Symptoms in adulthood can be more varied and present in more subtle ways than in childhood. Some examples include:
Symptoms will not get worse with age. Mainly because adults are equipped with more coping skills and resources to help manage their symptoms.
Health Insurance & ADHD
ADHD treatment falls under “mental health treatment” benefits. So, if your health insurance plan doesn’t include mental health coverage, you won’t be covered for ADHD treatment. If you have a plan that doesn’t have the coverage you need, or if you’re not sure what plan is right for you, speak to an EZ agent! EZ agents are highly trained and knowledgeable. And will sort through all available plans to make sure that you’re completely covered no matter what.
We offer a wide range of health insurance plans from top-rated insurance companies in every state. And because we work with so many companies and can offer all of the plans available in your area, we can find you a plan that saves you a lot of money – even hundreds of dollars – even if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. There is no obligation, or hassle, just free quotes on all available plans in your area. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above. Or to speak to a local agent, call 888-350-1890.
We’re living in a time when getting professional mental health care is much easier than it used to be, and much less stigmatized. And that’s a good thing! There’s so much information out there, allowing everyone to learn more about the mental health issues that they or their loved ones could be dealing with. And generally, knowledge is power, right?
Yes, but there could also be a darker side to all of the sharing about mental health concerns that’s happening on social media, and the internet at large. Influencers who share their stories on social media, and even some of the so-called experts putting out information on mental health on the internet, are leading many people to self-diagnose conditions like ADHD and depression. And that might not be such a good thing. If you’re falling into the mental health self-diagnosis trap, you might want to consider what mental health professionals say about relying on the internet as a diagnostic tool, and even as a form of therapy.
The Rise of Self-Diagnosis
The wealth of information we have, and the rise of influencers and others sharing their thoughts on mental illness everywhere on the internet, has led to an explosion of mental health self-diagnosis, especially among younger people. There is a ton of user-generated content on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram that encourage people to identify with a particular mental health issue.
Just check this out: hashtags on TikTok in 2021 include 2.7 billion views for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), 2.5 billion for Tourette’s, and 1.5 billion for DID (dissociative identity disorder). And most of the videos being consumed are not strictly informational videos. Rather, they are “personal experience” videos that detail how the creator of the video has struggled with a particular disorder, how they went about diagnosing their issue and how their diagnosis changed their life, what their new self-understanding means for them, how they’re addressing their condition, etc.
This type of content is huge. In fact, a recent study reported that of the 100 most popular ADHD videos on TikTok, the highest engagement was with personal experience videos, averaging nearly 3.9 million views each. But it’s not just TikTok content that’s driving people to self-diagnose. According to Joseph E. Davis, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today about the numerous studies over the years he’s done on self-diagnosis of mental conditions, the people he has interviewed cite “Google searches, newspaper and magazine articles, talks with friends and family, and pharmaceutical advertisements as sources of stories and ideas about particular disorders that resonated with them and persuaded them that they suffered from a particular condition.”
But is this necessarily a bad thing? He also says that most of the people he spoke to sought help from professionals after “self-diagnosing,” so maybe the information available to them is not a bad thing, since it encouraged them to examine their own mental health. But Davis doesn’t fully agree.
Should We Leave It to the Pros?
Davis worries that people are treating mental illness as a kind of catch-all explanation for other issues in their lives. He also points out that people aren’t treating these conditions as they would any other health condition that needs a diagnosis based on specific parameters.
He says, “Interviewees in my study did not treat their self-labeled conditions as having objective, predefined medical meanings on the model of afflictions like diabetes or heart disease. Rather, they defined the conditions in their own self-referential terms, flexibly fitting a definition to their own way of thinking about the meaning of their experience and their self-identity.” He gives an example of a TikTok video describing the “symptoms” – wrongly – of ADHD as including “anxiety shivers,” “random noise making,” and “being competitive”.
And yes, that is certainly a danger of using something outside of the medical profession to “diagnose” yourself. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of temptation to cling onto somebody’s personal story as a way to explain what you’re struggling with. Davis stresses his belief that many people who self-diagnose a mental health condition are often doing so to find some meaning in – and even a community of people – surrounding “all manner of troublesome, frustrating, and disappointing experiences.”
In other words, he believes that a lot of people are stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, unhappy at their jobs, etc, and are searching for insight, relief, and other people who share their experiences. And that’s easy to understand. But he and other experts are adamant that a mental health diagnosis should only be made by a mental health professional, since these assessments can be complex, and need a trained, objective eye.
Not only that, but some experts worry that this explosion of people encouraging others to self-diagnose could actually cause its own problems. In one extreme case, Dr. Adeola Adelayo, MD, a practicing psychiatrist with Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, says “We’ve seen an explosion of Tourette-like tics in our unit and every single case has been linked with watching countless TikTok videos about people with Tourette syndrome. [They] don’t have Tourette’s, but they aren’t pretending either. They have a functional movement disorder as a result of stress and possibly underlying anxiety or depression which may or may not have been properly diagnosed.”
After a series of individualized treatment plans and two weeks off of TikTok, the patients were back to normal – the tics were gone – showing just how powerful and influential these TikTok videos can be.
That’s the worst case scenario, but even in the best case, a lot of experts just feel frustrated that we’re not leaving this to the pros. Says Dr. Adelayo, “It creates this horoscope type of effect. People see enough of these videos, they start to relate to any number of the potential symptoms and even begin to present with some of the same symptoms. The thing is psychological illnesses don’t happen that way. Just because you pee a lot, doesn’t mean you have diabetes. You just don’t have diabetes because you say you have diabetes.”
Is There a Positive Side to All This?
Are all mental health professionals completely bugged or distressed by the explosion of lay people “diagnosing” themselves? Not necessarily. Consider the perspective of Micheline Maalouf, a licensed mental health counselor, and owner of Serein Counseling in Orlando, Florida. A client of hers convinced himself that he was living with OCD because he watched a TikTok video and “checked off” all the symptoms he had.
He told her, “I saw this TikTok video about signs that you may have OCD. I resonated with some of the symptoms but not all, so I’m not sure if I have it. My situation wasn’t exactly like the person’s in the video, but it got me thinking.”
While Maalouf was careful to explain that diagnosing something like OCD is much more complicated than ticking off a checklist, she also says she is thankful for conversations such as these for two reasons. First, it means the client has some self-awareness, which is a good thing. And second, it provides her with more insight into her client and the potential issues they need to work on in therapy, regardless of whether the issues match the client’s self-diagnosis.
And self-awareness and insight can only be positive things, when coupled with an open mind about what you might be struggling with! It’s just important not to get stuck on a “diagnosis” that you are sure is correct.
And not only that, but social media, when used in a positive way, can actually foster a feeling of community and belonging for those looking for mental health answers. It’s really opened the door for people to get more comfortable with talking about neurodivergence, anxiety, depression, and trauma, and it has helped lift some of the stigmas from these issues, as well as from others like autism.
So it’s not all bad, but if you’re engaging with this type of social media, it’s important to be careful who you look to, and where you go, for advice. You should also remember that social media isn’t actually therapy, and that you should take a break from it when you need to! And if social media feels like it’s starting to affect your daily life, please talk to a professional.
The bottom line is, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue, including the following, please speak to a mental health professional:
Decreased academic/work performance
But with that being said, if you are stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, and/or unhappy, as Davis suspects many people who are falling into the self-diagnosis trap are, it is also in your best interest to seek help! There’s no need to guess at what’s troubling you, or to only find a connection through an app or a screen. There is help out there, there are people to connect with, and it’s 100% OK to ask for that help and that connection!
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, often gets misdiagnosed in young people. While around 11% of children ages 4-17 in the U.S. have received a diagnosis of ADHD, studies show that this is just a small percentage of people who actually have ADHD. This misdiagnosis, and failure to treat ADHD, can end up causing bigger issues for people when they get older: those with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression. Symptoms can become worse after midlife, and continue to worsen with regular age-related cognitive decline. Don’t ignore the symptoms, speak to your doctor before your condition gets worse.
What ADHD Looks Like In Older Adults
An estimated 3% of older adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, although the number of those who are actually living with the condition might be higher. While some studies show that ADHD doesn’t necessarily get worse with age, and that some adults can outgrow their symptoms, this is not the case for everyone. In fact, some people will experience more severe or intense symptoms during their day-to-day activities when they get older, since the more stress you encounter, the worse your ADHD symptoms can get. That means adults with ADHD will need more support than the average aging adult.
When Do Symptoms Get Worse?
Symptoms of ADHD generally change during the transition from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood, again when a person enters midlife, and yet again during older age. Often, older adults with ADHD will have issues with things like:
Talking too much
Having trouble following conversations
Difficulty maintaining their home
Difficulty maintaining relationships
Not getting things done
Poor sleep patterns
Poor nutritional habits
In addition, a 2012 study found that 62% of those with ADHD had at least one other disorder, such as:
Eventually, if left untreated, ADHD can lead to serious mental health issues. Specifically, older adults with ADHD have an increased risk of developing depression and dementia. “Older people with ADHD who have never been diagnosed may suddenly fear that they’re developing dementia because they are absentminded and forgetful,” says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
Managing & Treating ADHD
If you suspect that you have ADHD, speak to your doctor. The best way to help manage your condition is to seek treatment as soon as possible: the earlier you get help, the more manageable the condition is. You can do this by going to a support group, or attending cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy can help raise your awareness when symptoms occur, help you combat feelings of low self-esteem to reduce feelings of depression, and teach you how to cope with stress and increase productivity.
If you need more help, doctors can prescribe medications such as amphetamines and methylphenidate to help deal with ADHD. And in rare cases, doctors will prescribe antidepressants.
If you’re on Medicare, getting medications and therapy for ADHD will be partially covered, but you will still have out-of-pocket expenses, such as your Part B deductible and 20% Part B coinsurance, which can add up to a lot. It’s worth looking into a Medicare Supplement Plan to save as much money as you can, so speak to an EZ agent for all of your options. EZ’s agents work with the top-rated insurance companies in the nation and can compare plans in minutes for you at no cost. To get free instant quotes for plans that cover your current doctors, simply enter your zip code in the bar on the side, or to speak to a licensed agent, call 888-753-7207.
Almost every parent with an extremely energetic child has thought it: is my child just super energetic, or do they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)? The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has grown substantially over the past 20 years, nearly tripling over the past decade. Children are naturally active and inquisitive, and while a high percentage of children with ADHD are very energetic, high energy is not enough to diagnose ADHD. Some children are just hyperactive. So, what is the difference between the two?
One main difference between a child with hyperactivity and one with ADHD is that ADHD will affect the child’s ability to function in school and social settings. Here are some of the other differences between the two:
Symptoms Of ADHD
Difficulty paying attention in tasks
Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
Often loses things
Forgetful in daily activities
Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
Fails to pay close attention to details, and makes careless mistakes
Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
Symptoms Of Hyperactivity
Fidgets with hands or feet, and squirms in seat
Runs or climbs excessively in inappropriate situations
Leaves their seat in the classroom when they should be seated
Difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
Appears to always be on the go
You might have a child that exhibits some of these signs, and it can be hard to tell if they have ADHD or are just hyperactive. A good solution for this is if their school teacher or daycare comes to you with concerns. If your child finds it hard to sit still, then they are displaying signs of ADHD. However, some kids are just hyper. If your child is like that, but is able to both control their impulses in school and pay attention, then they are just an energetic child.
Over the years, more and more children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and some may be given medication that is unnecessary. Some children are just naturally energetic, and it is completely normal for preschoolers to have short attention spans. ADHD symptoms constantly disrupt daily life and relationships. If your child’s overactivity is negatively affecting their ability to learn and behave in school, then you should be concerned. As mentioned before, teachers will bring it to your attention if there is an issue. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, then make an appointment with your family doctor. The doctor will go over a list of questions and observe your child’s behavior. ADHD runs in the family, so the doctor will also look into family history. If your child does have ADHD, then the earlier you find out, the more tools and support you will have to help them become more successful in school and life.