Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) not only affects up to seven percent of all children and adolescents in Germany, but also up to 4.5 percent of all adults. ADHD can lead to limitations and problems in everyday life, at work and in private life, reduce the self-esteem of those affected and cause avoidance behavior and addiction problems.
Symptoms and complaints of ADHD How to recognize ADHD
Difficulty concentrating, frequent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity: these main symptoms of ADHD can be pronounced in different ways. The line between normality and illness is blurred. Only when a “certain level” is exceeded should one speak of a “disorder”. But what is a “certain level”? Answering this question is not at all easy, and it is what makes the clear diagnosis of ADHD so challenging.
In many patients, the symptoms of an ADHD/ADS disorder persist into adulthood – but then they have a different focus than in childhood.
The main symptoms of an ADHD/ADS disorder in adulthood
- Lack of concentration and inattention: Affected persons are easily distracted. They start numerous activities but do not finish them. You have difficulty following rules and instructions.
- Hyperactivity: Affected persons are always on the move. They can hardly sit still. They stand out by talking excessively. They talk with exaggerated volume.
- Impulsivity: Affected persons often behave unpredictably. They make decisions and act on them without thinking about the consequences. They give spontaneous ill-considered answers before questions have been fully asked. They burst into conversations.
These symptoms can indicate ADHD, but they don’t have to. Not all symptoms have to be present for ADHD to be diagnosed. Many patients show only a few of the symptoms mentioned above – but these are particularly pronounced. Other affected persons develop many symptoms, which, however, are less dominant. An attention deficit syndrome with less pronounced hyperactivity is also possible. These patients then often appear as dreamy and unstructured.
Even as an elementary school student I had constant angry outbursts or was the class clown. At some point, my performance became so poor that I no longer felt like going to school. However, my parents dragged me to the school psychologist – fortunately.
22 years, former patient of the Oberberg Fachklinik Konraderhof for children and adolescents
The medical definition of attention deficit disorder
An ADD or ADHD syndrome is worthy of treatment if the manifestation of the symptoms leads to a clear impairment in the performance and social area or if the affected person suffers and other psychological disorders (addiction, depression, aggressiveness) can develop or already exist.
Fashionable diagnosis or original personality variant?
How an illness or a disorder is defined also has to do with social norms and views. In our world, self-discipline, punctuality, table manners and prudence are usually expected – and that children can also sit still for a longer period of time. But just as one can live well with a few pounds too much, ADHD/ADS in “moderate” form can certainly lead to the “original personality variant” mentioned above: Last but not least, there are many successful celebrities among ADHD/ADS sufferers – such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Winston Churchill or Bill Gates, to name just three prominent names.
ADD and ADHD: the collision with the norms
Attention and diligence are still the basic prerequisites for good grades in school today. A later professional career in turn depends heavily on academic performance. And just like school, professional life also imposes certain requirements such as punctuality, a sense of responsibility and reliability.
In order not to become an outsider, people “must” adapt to these norms more or less and fulfill the expectations placed on them as much as possible; however, if the manifestations of the ADHD/ADHS symptoms impair their performance so strongly,
- that school, training, work as well as the acquisition of everyday skills are at risk,
- that difficulties arose in the social sphere,
- that self-esteem suffers as a result,
those affected or their relatives (in the case of children and adolescents) should act as quickly as possible and seek professional advice about the ADHD/ADS problem.
Living with ADHD and ADD How to mitigate the effects of this disorder in everyday life
In adults, ADHD/ADS problems may decrease with aging. Although such a disorder usually does not “grow out” completely, many affected people manage to cope with it better and better in the course of their lives. Whether one can lead a fulfilling and successful life despite ADHD or ADD always depends on several factors. For example, it often has a positive effect if family, partners, colleagues and friends actively and consciously counteract the volatility and disorganization of the affected person.
Less distraction, more concentration
ADHD patients are usually very easily distracted. This often makes it difficult for them to find peace (or to themselves) and perhaps take a breath. In open-plan offices, these people are mostly unable to work despite their existing talents, and their “social compatibility” is also often “borderline”: Departments, groups or teams experience time and again, especially in regular meetings or conferences, that colleagues with ADHD/ADS can hardly be restrained in their zeal and have the tendency to interrupt others and comment on topics that do not concern them at all.
The website ADHSpedia therefore recommends to those affected, among other things:
- Work in stages and complete tasks in a reasonable amount of time before moving on to the next challenge
- not to act out perfectionism
- Ask, if possible, to be assigned a workspace where creative work can be done
- to ensure adequate breaks from work and regular sleep
- Ask to be moved to a quieter work area if working in an open office leads to more unwanted distractions and lack of concentration
avoid conflicts in the partnership
In relationships with two distinctly different characters, ADHD or ADD can quickly lead to discord and separation. At the beginning, one partner may be fascinated by the spontaneity and the exuberant inventiveness of his partner (or vice versa), but in the everyday life of the relationship this can often become an almost unbearable burden. However, if the healthy partner succeeds in responding to the impulsive and erratic behavior of the other (or others) in a patient, restrained, and, not least, pioneering manner, both can work out a mutually tolerable way of dealing with the ADHD/ADS disorder.
Distinguish important from unimportant things
Last but not least, the lack of judgment to distinguish “important” from “unimportant” in a certain situation also impairs a common togetherness. For young adults with ADHD or ADD, this assessment is nearly impossible. The result: when learning is required, they usually spend far too long on trivial matters and are then unable to complete the tasks set for them, often due to a lack of time. This in turn leads to conflicts with parents, teachers, later life partners or employers. Affected people should not use their ADHD/ADS problem as an excuse, but try to work on their own difficulties and grow. In general, it would be better not to talk about difficulties, but about challenges, in order to learn something new about oneself and life, says for example on the website of the ADHD Center Munich.
The problem with negative self-esteem
“The self-confidence of many affected persons is neither particularly pronounced nor stable due to their numerous negative experiences. The longer this condition lasts, the less they trust themselves. Affected adolescents and young adults therefore disproportionately often drop out of school, apprenticeships or studies; in adults, the disorder commonly leads to frequent changes of job or to job loss. Many of those affected also find it difficult to enter into and maintain social relationships outside the family. Then they are emotionally dependent on the parents or the family, although they do not really feel comfortable there either. The daily petty warfare, combined with violent outbursts of rage – usually incomprehensible to outsiders – intensify their feeling of being ‘worthless’ to a certain extent.”
Being overwhelmed by family and children
“Especially women who are affected by ADHD are often happy when they have a baby on the way. In this way they can ‘escape’ the (‘exhausting’) routine obligation of a job with fixed working hours and fixed tasks. Their enthusiasm makes them dream of the new task – caring for the child – in the rosiest of colors. This increased self-esteem due to the close relationship with an infant should not be underestimated.
Unfortunately, many new mothers with ADHD quickly feel overwhelmed and begin to see the child increasingly as a burden. The feeling of being preoccupied only with oneself and having to hide the efforts of everyday life and the inner disorder from one’s surroundings can determine their entire thinking as they grow older and take on more and more tasks. Housework is then usually done only sporadically, the education of the child also comes too short. The affected women run the risk of falling ill with depression or fleeing into a dependency disorder.”
Raising their own children
The dilemma of a person affected by ADHD takes its course when the children are also affected by this disorder. The lack of overview becomes an unmanageable problem for mother and child(ren): A clear setting of limits, which the children urgently need in this case, is missing.