Adult ADHD


Running late again and going too fast, the driver gets pulled over by police for a speeding violation. It’s a common occurrence, but that speeding ticket just may be the result of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“Chronic inability to estimate time is considered an ADHD thing,” said Melissa Reskof, a board member with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

Adults with ADHD are five times more likely to speed, according to research by Russell Barkley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and internationally recognized authority on ADHD. His findings also indicate adults with ADHD are almost 50 percent more likely to be in a serious car crash.

Often viewed as a mental health disorder affecting children, Barkley’s research found that 4.4 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from ADHD. More than 41 percent of adult cases are considered severe. Anxiety disorders also appear in 50 percent of adults with ADHD.

“Kids get more attention because parents want the best for their children,” Reskof said. “Then a lot of adults get their diagnosis because of what they learn when their kids get the diagnosis.”

The American Psychological Association defines ADHD as a lifelong, persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity that interferes with functioning or development. It is a genetic, brain-based syndrome that affects brain functions and related behaviors. There is no cure and the majority do not outgrow it.

Barkley’s research found that out of the approximately 11 million adults in the United States suffering from ADHD, fewer than 20 percent seek professional help.

Adults coping with ADHD may face significant issues in the workplace and personal relationships, Reskof said. “When it comes to relationships, people can face big challenges,” she said. “If you are never on time your partner could take it personally. Sometimes within a couple one spouse will nag the other, so there’s some communication issues.”

And ADHD comes at a high cost. According to one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and co-authored by several experts, the overall annual economic impact of ADHD ranges from $143 billion to $266 billion. For adults, the largest cost category identified was annual productivity and income losses ranging from $87 billion to $138 billion.

Adult ADHD is recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Texas Workforce Commission offers a Vocational Rehabilitation Program that can be tailored to meet the needs of adults with ADHD in the workplace.

“The services we can provide to assist individuals with disabilities, including ADHD, vary and are individualized based on their employment goals,” said Lorissa Luna, TWC business relations coordinator for San Antonio and South Texas who is based in Harlingen. “We focus on their strengths and abilities, but we recognize their limitations so we can best support them in their future independence and employment settings.”

Luna stressed the importance of awareness of disabilities like ADHD in the workplace. “It’s important we continue to educate our community and the businesses we work with that individuals with disabilities can work,” she said. “We provide disability awareness and sensitivity training to debunk some of the common myths.”

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association also recognizes the need for on-the-job awareness. “We have developed a workplace presentation that we can present at no cost to HR folks to explain the kinds of things you can do as a manager,” Reskof said. Strategies include simple accommodations for employees to cope with inattention, impulsivity, time management, and procrastination, among other symptoms.

Formal treatment for ADHD commonly includes a combination of medication and therapy. While medication serves to manage brain-based functions, therapy addresses daily thoughts, behaviors, and coping strategies.

Reskof said individuals seeking behavioral counseling should look for therapists accredited as certified ADHD coaches through organizations like the Professional Association for ADHD Coaches and the International Coach Foundation.

“I would not go to a coach who does not have accreditation,” she said. “These coaches have more in their toolbox that other therapists. I think coaches can definitely help people create habits to help cope with ADHD.”

Without professional help, life with ADHD can be daunting.

“It’s like playing cards and you have dropped a few of them and you can’t figure out why you are not winning,” Reskof said.