October is National Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Month. As with any disorder, if we stop and consider SQUIRREL!!!! Now where was I? Most of you probably recognized this reference about distractibility from the movie UP. It may be funny on a movie screen, but it’s no laughing matter when it’s happening to you or someone your care about.
ADHD is a legitimate medical problem recognized by all national professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association. Treatment is reimbursed by insurance companies and Medicaid. There are more than ten FDA-approved medications to reduce ADHD symptoms. Colleges and universities have well-established policies to accommodate students with ADHD so they can be successful in school. In short, ADHD is real and needs to be taken seriously.
According to Centers for Disease Control, approximately 8% of children ages 4-17 are currently diagnosed with ADHD. That’s 5.1 million children. Most (69%) are taking prescribed medications for the problem. However, ADHD doesn’t suddenly disappear when a child becomes an adult on their 18th birthday. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that about 60% of children with ADHD become adults with ADHD. More striking is the estimation that only a small portion (20%) of adults with ADHD actually get a diagnosis and treatment.
Uncontrolled ADHD is devastating. Some striking outcomes found in various studies are:
· They are far less likely to enroll in a 4-year college.
· They are 11 times more likely to not enroll in any school vs. enrolling in a 4-year college.
· 50% attend vocational or junior colleges vs. 18% of the non-ADHD comparison group.
· 15% hold a 4-year degree compared to 48% of the control group.
· 0.06% held a graduate degree compared to 5.4% of the control group.· They are 11 times more likely to be unemployed and not in school.
· They are 4 times more likely to be in unskilled vs. clerical occupation, and 6 times more likely to be in unskilled vs. professional occupations.
· 61% more likely to have ever been fired, compared to 43% of the comparison group.
· 33% more likely to have ever been laid off, compared to 13% of the comparison group.
· 53% more likely to have ever quit a job due to dislike, compared to 36% of the comparison group.
· They earned close to $2 per hour less in wages than the comparison group.
Car accidents, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and divorces all carry higher rates for people with ADHD. The cumulative effect of the inability to pay attention and control impulses is remarkable.
What is ADHD? The front part of the brain helps us to focus and concentrate and control impulses. Dopamine, a brain chemical, helps this part of the brain to work properly. In some people, there isn’t enough dopamine and they are unable to focus and concentrate as well as other people.
Medications increase the amount of dopamine and stop the problem as long as they are taken. There are also effective treatments that don’t involve medications. These treatments primarily involve skill building like using notebooks, structured study times, and other regimented schedules. Career counseling can also be helpful to avoid choosing the wrong professions. For example, accounting typically requires focus and attention for hours at a time (probably not an optimal choice). People with ADHD are often bright and outgoing, so working in sales may be a great choice as scenery and work environment change a lot.
As with any other medical problem, there are do’s and don’ts when managing ADHD symptoms. Don’t use substances to “self-medicate.” Your problems will only get worse. Do get professional help and assistance. At Highland Springs Specialty Clinics we have specially trained therapists and prescribers ready to assist you or your loved one to find happiness again. Don’t wait any longer. Get help today, and take control of your life again
B. Todd Thatcher, DO, CMRO
Chief Medical Officer
Valley Behavioral Health