Charlene Harrison had always felt like life was “a bit of a struggle”. Raising three children is always bound to be hectic, but when Charlene’s six-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD, she soon found herself with a diagnosis of her own.
“When my son was diagnosed, I read everything I could to learn more about ADHD. I found out that ADHD was highly genetic right at the time my 12-year-old daughter was struggling with high school so I started asking questions about ADHD presentation in girls and found that girls are more likely to exhibit inattention.
Charlene Harrison, who was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.
"So I had my daughter assessed and she received a diagnosis. And then I realised that my daughter’s behaviour was so much like mine that I thought maybe this might answer a few questions for myself”.
ADHD is a highly heritable (80% genetics) neuro-developmental disorder that impacts executive function in the brain. Executive function is used to prioritise tasks, maintain focus, regulate emotions, access working memory and monitor self-regulation.
While boys are more likely to be diagnosed in adolescence because they exhibit hyperactivity, inattentiveness is more prominent in girls. They often develop strategies to mask their symptoms and remain under the radar.
Joy Toll, founder of the helpline ADDults With ADHD, has worked for the last 24 years to assist adults with an ADHD diagnosis, and says Charlene’s story is one of the most common she hears. While ADHD in adolescence has received much needed awareness, adult ADHD has been overlooked.
“Adults have the greatest need and there is not a lot of help out there for them. The structures and routines that assist people with ADHD disappear as they enter adulthood because they must be responsible for themselves”.
Jennifer, a volunteer at ADDults with ADHD and a qualified ADHD coach, says “parents lend their executive function to children” but in adulthood those support structures disappear. She describes ADHD as a “Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes."
For Charlene: “The wheels fell off for me at university when there was nobody keeping me on track other than myself, but by this stage you think that you should have your life in order because everybody else seems to.”
Dr Hugh Morgan, Clinical Psychiatrist at Mind Care Centre and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, says currently 2-3 per cent of adults are diagnosed with ADHD, but only 10 per cent of affected adults in Australia are diagnosed.
He attributes this under diagnosis to factors including lack of access to treatment, and stigma.
“It has become more acceptable for children and adolescents to be diagnosed with ADHD, but it is not well understood by the community that ADHD continues into adulthood, and unfortunately it’s not really recognised by many of my colleagues.
"This partly reflects the current training where medical students are not taught to assess, diagnose or treat adults with ADHD, and adults can’t access treatment through the public mental health system.” As a consequence there are not many psychiatrists who treat adult ADHD, and long waiting lists for those who do.
Joy Toll says many mental health websites do not have up to date information about adult ADHD the helpline receives calls form people who are confused due to lack of information. "Many of them break down and cry when they find someone who listens and supports them,” she says.
Dr Morgan says the most effective treatment for adults is medication, but "for most people they will also need some kind of behavioural intervention."
“People with ADHD deserve a lot more acknowledgement and care from my colleagues and community. Without treatment they are really disadvantaged and that’s not fair. Breaking down the stigma is important”.
Charlene Harrison says that once was finally diagnosed and began medication for ADHD, life became simpler. “It helped me from the very first day. I would see something that needed to get done and I would just do it. Whereas in the past I would have spent five minutes writing it on a list when it was a two-minute job.”
For help contact ADDults, Mind Care Centre or ADHD Australia.
Source: Read Full Article