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Adult onset ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Adult onset ADHD is a term used to describe cases where individuals develop symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adulthood, rather than experiencing symptoms in childhood. It's less common than childhood-onset ADHD. Adult onset ADHD can be challenging to diagnose because it may be mistaken for other conditions or overlooked until later in life.


Research suggests that adult-onset ADHD does occur, and its prevalence appears to be lower than childhood-onset ADHD. According to estimates, approximately 2% to 5% of adults may have ADHD. However, the prevalence of adult-onset cases within this group is not precisely known and may vary. Symptoms: Symptoms of adult onset ADHD can include difficulty with focus, impulsivity, restlessness, and disorganization. Diagnosis typically involves a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional, considering symptoms, medical history, and other relevant factors. Comorbidities with Adult onset of ADHD. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can co-occur with various other psychiatric disorders, a phenomenon known as comorbidity. Some common psychiatric disorders that are frequently found alongside ADHD include:


  1. Conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder often coexist with ADHD. The restlessness and difficulty with concentration seen in ADHD can contribute to heightened anxiety.

  2. Depression: Adults with ADHD may be at higher risk for depression, possibly due to the challenges and frustration associated with managing ADHD symptoms.

  3. Bipolar Disorder: Some individuals with ADHD may also have bipolar disorder, characterized by mood swings that range from manic (elevated mood) to depressive (low mood) states.

  4. Substance Use Disorders: There is an increased risk of substance abuse and addiction among individuals with ADHD. They might use substances as a way to self-medicate or cope with their symptoms.

  5. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD): Children and adolescents with ADHD are more likely to develop ODD or CD, which involve defiance, aggression, and antisocial behaviors.

  6. Learning Disabilities: Conditions like dyslexia, dyscalculia, and other specific learning disabilities can co-occur with ADHD, making academic challenges more complex.

  7. Personality Disorders: Some personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, can co-occur with ADHD, potentially complicating emotional regulation and social interactions.


Causes: The exact causes of adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are not fully understood, but research suggests that it is likely to be a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors. Here are some potential contributing factors:


  1. Genetic Factors: ADHD tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. If a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has ADHD, you may have an increased risk of developing it.

  2. Brain Structure and Function: Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in regions related to attention and impulse control, have been observed in individuals with ADHD.

  3. Neurotransmitters: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a role in regulating attention and impulse control, are thought to contribute to ADHD.

  4. Prenatal and Perinatal Factors: Factors during pregnancy and childbirth, such as exposure to toxins, premature birth, low birth weight, and maternal smoking or substance use, have been studied as potential risk factors.

  5. Environmental Factors: Early exposure to lead or other environmental toxins, as well as a chaotic or stressful home environment during childhood, may contribute to the development of ADHD.

  6. Brain Injury or Trauma: Brain injuries, infections, or trauma to the head can sometimes lead to ADHD-like symptoms, although this is not the typical cause.

  7. Other Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, sleep disorders, and mood disorders, can mimic ADHD symptoms or exacerbate them.


Treatment: The treatment for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) typically involves a combination of approaches tailored to the individual's specific needs and can include Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or behavioral modification techniques. Medications are often prescribed to manage the core symptoms of ADHD. impulsivity and hyperactivity. Educational Support and Lifestyle and Self-Management. It's important to note that adult ADHD can often go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as other conditions, so a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)

Ms. Shefali Bhardwaj

Faith Hospital, Chandigarh

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