Most people would be surprised to learn that approximately 9 million American adults have been diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Often thought of as a childhood disorder, 30-70% of kids with ADHD emerge into adulthood with continuing symptoms which can have disastrous effects on careers, relationships and ambitions. Undiagnosed adults who suffer from ADHD are completely mystified about why their goals always seem to slip out of reach and often spiral into depression and a feeling of worthlessness.
Due to an imbalance of neurotransmitter activity in areas of the brain that control attention, ADHD adults are usually chronically late no matter what the event; work, family gatherings or a night at the theater. Additionally, disorganization, restlessness, mood swings, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating and/or relaxing and poor anger management are all characteristics of an adult suffering from ADHD.
Based on the assumption that medication combined with one-on-one sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may significantly improve symptoms in ADHD adults, Steven A. Safren, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA and team conducted a randomized study of 86 symptomatic adults. All of the 86 patients were already being treated with medication; 79 completed treatment; 70 completed all follow-up assessments.
Published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers revealed that twelve 50-minute sessions of CBT, an empirically supported treatment focusing on patterns of thinking, problem-focused and goal-directed, resulted in improved ADHD symptoms allowing subjects to live and work more effectively.
Those who were treated with relaxation and more generalized educational support only for the same number of sessions did not experience relief from their symptoms to the same degree as the CBT group, nor did the improvement last as long after the fact.
Career advancement, or even holding down a job, can be a source of frustration for those with ADHD due to poor organization skills, difficulty following directions, careless mistakes and tardiness or missing deadlines. According to a national survey, only about 50% of adults with ADHD are able to maintain a full-time position.
People with ADHD may be able to boost their performance in the workplace through job coaching or mentoring. Several sessions in the CBT group focused on techniques to become and remain organized using calendars and list making systems, as well as learning to break down overwhelming jobs into smaller tasks, recognizing and responding effectively to stress related challenges.
Patients may do better in a quiet workspace with few distractions. ADHD is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means employers must make adjustments to support a worker’s needs.
Difficulty remembering social commitments, birthday or anniversaries, finishing household chores and paying bills on time can sabotage marriage, family and other relationships, leading to a higher incidence of separation and divorce.
Coping with the symptoms of adult ADHD can be frustrating in itself. Additionally, many adults with ADHD have coexisting conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder. They’re also more likely to smoke or abuse drugs.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website cites, “CBT’s focus on thoughts and beliefs are applicable to a wide array of issues. Because CBT has excellent empirical support, it has achieved wide popularity both for therapists and consumers.”
“Studies of CBT have demonstrated its usefulness for a wide variety of problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders.”
Whether diagnosed with ADHD as a child, all people with ADHD had symptoms as a child. ADHD does not develop spontaneously in adults. Many adult patients remember doing poorly in school academically, or getting “in trouble” because they couldn’t sit still.
Some experts believe foods that provide quality brain fuel could reduce symptoms of ADHD:
*High-protein foods, including nuts, meat, beans, and eggs, may improve concentration.
*Replacing simple carbs with complex carbs, like whole-grain pasta or brown rice, can help ward off mood swings and stabilize energy levels.
Though most adults with ADHD improve when they start medication, they may continue to struggle with poor habits and low self-esteem, it appears obvious in this study that medication in addition to CBT will offer optimal treatment with optimal results.