Adult Attention Deficit Disorder: A Real Concernby Karen Vieira, MBA, PhD | May 16, 2008
Adult attention deficit disorder or AADD is characterized as a condition causing inattentiveness, organization problems, procrastination and difficulty completing work. It is believed that adults can see an onset of AADD later in life maybe as a carryover from childhood, but in order to receive a diagnosis you must have had symptoms as a child. The condition has differing levels of severity so treatment options vary all the way from coping skills to medication to control the symptoms. Medical intervention will come with some unwanted side effects so many patients opt for social counseling and other less invasive treatment options.
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is similar to AADD but research has shown that one third of the adults affected with AADD do not show any hyperactive behavior. Thus, the medical community has taken to using the AADD term instead.
In the brain of patients with AADD, executive function is impaired. This is the function that governs a person’s ability to monitor their own behavior by organizing and planning. This disorder affects approximately 2 to 4% of adults.
AADD patients are often the types seen by others as not thinking before they speak or act. They are sometimes referred to as a Type A personality or an always on the go individual. While they may seem to be driven, it is noted that they are rarely focused on one task long enough to see it to completion. In a recent study, three different groups of AADD patients all scored much lower than non-AADD adults on a dual memory and simultaneous capacity test, demonstrating their inability to concentrate in such situations. While this may seems like a small step, this recognition helps prove AADD to be a real concern.
As mentioned, treatment options vary depending on the severity of symptoms. For some AADD patients the symptoms are bad enough that medications along with social therapy are prescribed. Some of the more popular prescription medications are Ritalin, Adderall or Vyvanse. Ritalin is the most commonly known medication and is used in the treatment of ADD in children with some success. Adderall is a psychostimulant and Vyvanse (also used for children) is a stimulant as well.
It may seem strange that stimulants are prescribed for a disorder that sometimes causes hyperactivity but they are effective in many cases. This is thought to be accomplished by coaxing the brain to manufacture more serotonin. Increased serotonin has been shown to have a calming effect. This not only treats the hyperactive symptoms but may allow an adult to focus on their tasks at hand and see them to completion.
As recognition of AADD grows, more studies may lead to new treatments and an increased awareness of the disorder.
Dige, N., Maahr, E., Backenroth-Ohsako, G. (2008). Memory Tests in Subgroups of Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Reveals Simultaneous Capacity Deficit. International Journal of Neuroscience, 118(4), 569-591. DOI: 10.1080/00207450701239384
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