Subtle symptoms of ADHD in adults leaves condition underdiagnosed
Adults who struggle to make it to work on time and find it difficult to focus on their career could be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- a condition that experts say is often underdiagnosed in adulthood.
While ADHD is often thought of as a children’s disorder, an estimated four per cent of adults live with the condition, and only one in 10 are properly diagnosed.
Dr. Timothy Bilkey, a psychiatrist and author, says adults who are left untreated often blame themselves for not being able to achieve personal and professional goals.
“We don’t have adults bouncing off the walls or things like that,” Bilkey told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday. But he pointed to distractibility in the workplace, or underachievement due to being easily distracted, as chronic problems that are often overlooked.
“The symptoms seem to be very subtle,” Bilkey said. “We have people who don’t file taxes for 10 years. We have people who lose jobs because they’re chronically late.”
Bilkey said he treated one adult patient with ADHD who brought her car to a dealership for servicing and ended up buying a brand new car on the spot.
“Even a little bit of financial impulsivity is a big issue in adult life.”
The three key words that Bilkey uses to describe the symptoms of ADHD are: distractibility, procrastination and time management behaviours.
“If you’re a little bit forgetful, if you’re a procrastinator, it’s too easy for people to say, ‘Just try harder.’ So chronically, over time, it impacts self-esteem,” he said.
Bilkey said that 80 per cent of ADHD cases are attributed to genetics and for children who are diagnosed with the condition, more than half will see the symptoms continue into adulthood.
He added that while medication can be used to treat the ADHD, there are a number of non-drug treatments including cognitive mind therapy and self-help strategies.