Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

Marketing campaigns from pharmaceutical companies may make you ask yourself, Do I have attention deficit disorder ? Well, do you?


Feeling distracted or disorganized? Having trouble waiting your turn in line? Are you fidgety? Maybe you have adult attention deficit disorder (ADD) and need to see your doctor. That's the new marketing message from pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company. Lily has the only drugs with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat adults with ADD. For decades individuals with ADD symptoms were under-diagnosed. Today, the disorder may be over-diagnosed. It surely will be over-diagnosed if the proposed changes in criteria for the disorder are approved by the American Psychiatric Association.

What exactly is Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?

Adult ADD is a nervous system disorder characterized by people who experience difficulties with executive functions (a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate abilities and behaviors). These functions include attention, planning, concentration, managing time and tasks, maintaining focus, and making thoughtful decisions; symptoms that many people have had to some degree at some point in their lives. However, to qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, an individual's executive difficulties must basically be life-long, and there must be no other condition present to explain them. Adults with ADD usually have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks or completing work on time. If these symptoms are not managed appropriately, they can cause associated behavioral, emotional, social, relationship, and vocational problems.

People with adult ADD have serious problems in one or more of the following areas: screening out distractions and keeping focused; starting, remembering or completing tasks; organizing information and belongings; being or fulfilling obligations on time; and setting priorities.

How prevalent is ADD?

The most common factor in ADD is heredity, which is responsible for 75% of all cases. ADD is reported consistently in about 7% of children and about 4% of adults in various cultures throughout the world. An estimated 60% of children who were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD will maintain their disorder into adulthood. Recent studies suggest that 4.4% of the USA adult population has ADD/ADHD.

How Is Adult ADD Diagnosed?

It is important to note that ADD is not an adult-onset disorder and must be verified from childhood; specifically symptoms must have started before the age of 7. Additionally, these symptoms must have caused significant problems in two or more settings (school, home), and that the symptoms occur in the absence of a different mental health disorder. The DSM-IV lists nine symptoms to constitute the diagnosis of ADD and nine symptoms to constitute the diagnosis of ADHD. If an individual presents with six of either or both of these symptoms they are diagnosed by a mental health clinician has having ADD or ADHD. For a complete list of criterion for the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD click the link below. If you believe you may have adult attention deficit disorder that was not diagnosed in childhood you can take a self test also linked in below.

Diagnosing ADD in the Near Future: Lowering the Bar

In May 2013 the APA will release a revised version of the DSM-IV, cleverly calling it the DSM-V. There will be numerous changes related to diagnosing a mentally ill individual. The proposals for ADD/ADHD are significantly important.

  • Fewer symptoms will be required for a diagnosis of adult ADD.
  • Changing the age of onset of the disorder from before the age of seven to before the age of twelve.
  • Doing away with the ADD/ADHD subtypes developed in DSM-IV, and reverting back to a single diagnosis of ADHD.

How Adult ADD/ADHD is Treated

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