ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A differentiation is made between ADHD with hyperactivity (ADHD) and without hyperactivity (ADD). In the seventies, scientists began to use the term attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder to describe various symptoms. Although most complaints are often noticed in children and adolescents, it is known that symptoms such as lack of concentration, impulsiveness and hyperactivity persist into adulthood. Relatively few of adults are diagnosed or treated although they may benefit from psycho-stimulant medication and /or Neurofeedback.
ADHD is indicated by a lack of concentration, impulsiveness and over-activity which usually begins before the age of seven, persists at least six months and is not due to other psychiatric disorders or environmental influences, (e.g. reaction to problems in the family environment). Behavioural problems and conduct disorders are more associated with ADHD than ADD.
The main characteristic of ADD without hyperactivity is difficulty in concentration. Studies show that children with this diagnosis often suffer from anxiety and learning difficulties. Although there are no studies conducted on adults with this disorder, it is expected that ADD without hyperactivity has a different effect than ADD with hyperactivity.
Adults with this disorder, especially those who have not been diagnosed and treated, can suffer from a number of problems, some of which are directly caused by ADHD and other compensatory behaviour associated with ADHD. These symptoms may of course also be seen in children with ADHD.
The symptoms of ADHD in adults may be constant or situation dependent. Some people with ADHD can concentrate if they are interested or excited, while others find concentration difficult. Adults with ADHD may actively seek stimulation or by contrast, avoid it as much as possible. Whilst antisocial behaviour is sometimes noticeable in adults with ADHD, the opposite may also be an indication as some may seek attention and acceptance by overtly pleasing others. Targeted Neurofeedback is a treatment method which can help people with ADHD adapt and control these behaviours.
Although little is known about the prevalence of ADHD in adults, the research that has been done shows that ADHD occurs equally in adult men and women. Two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD before puberty will still show behavioural problems during adolescence when emotional problems related to ADHD manifest. Up to one-half of these adolescents will still have symptoms of ADHD lasting into adulthood.
The effects of ADHD into adulthood can have a serious negative impact on self-esteem and personal development. Adults suffering from ADHD often benefit from a correct diagnosis and intervention by a trained therapist. It allows patients to put ongoing behavioural and social difficulties into a proper perspective, whereas before they may have felt misunderstood.
With good management of personal and social development, people diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood can still achieve positive outcomes with correct intervention by a trained therapist. Therapies such as Neurofeedback and cognitive behavioural therapy can improve self-esteem, work and learning skills in adults as well as in children.
With the support of a professional, there are a number of treatment options available to treat ADHD. A diagnosis should be seen as a step in the right direction, providing relief for patients to know that they are on a path forward to alleviating daily personal struggles and other behavioural or relationship issues. A professional may suggest counselling and coaching for the adult or child, their family and close friends as well as asking for support from employers or educators. A professional may also prescribe medication, as well as neuromodulation therapies such as Neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback. A trained therapist will recommend one or more of these treatments depending on the severity of the disorder and how much it impacts on the daily life and well-being of the person.
The underlying causes of inattention, hyperactivity or sleep difficulties are not necessarily the same in two people. Because of this, we create therapy programs which look at the individual brain activity of the person, whether they be a child or an adult. This is done by asking each patient or client to do a Quantitative EEG (QEEG) examination with psychometric assessment, to take into account biological, psychological and personal factors.
By doing a 7-day Actigraphy in the beginning as well, we can look at Sleep / Wake behaviours to see if this could explain some of the symptoms we are seeing. From this assessment, the therapist will come up with a therapy program that is more likely to help the client (for scientific evidence on this see Arns et al. 2012).