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More Women Than Men Seek Help for Treatment of Adult ADHD

By Rosemary Black. Published in the Daily News.

Link to the original newspaper article.

The symptoms could describe any busy, distracted multi-tasker: difficulty concentrating, chronic lateness, impatience, procrastination. Or they could point to a diagnosis of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which some 10 million U.S. grownups have.

Yet fewer than 25 percent of the adults walking around with the syndrome even know they have it, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The majority of undiagnosed ADHD adults just live with it, though they are more likely to get into a car accident and less likely to hold down a job or stay in a relationship.

ADHD afflicts men and women equally, but there is an underdiagnosis in girls, says Dr. Patricia Quinn, director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD in Washington, DC.

"It is an equal opportunity disorder," Quinn says. "There are about as many men and women with it and about equal numbers of grownups are diagnosed. In children under 18, some 2.5 to 3 times as many boys as girls are diagnosed."

Girls with untreated ADHD develop more self esteem problems, depression and mood disorders. Mary Solanto, director of the AD/HD Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says women may actually be more likely to be diagnosed than men since they want help. "Women may be more amenable to being helped," she says.

ADHD is a genetic disorder that always starts in childhood, says Dr. Harold Levinson, author of several books on ADHD. "Every adult with ADHD was a child with ADHD," he says. "As kids, boys tend to be diagnosed more often because they are more aggressive and act up more. Girls tend to compensate and mask the symptoms."

Girls with ADHD are underdiagnosed because they're inattentive rather than hyperactive, and can more easily fly under the radar, says Bryan Goodman, spokesperson for CHADD, the nation's largest organization serving people with ADHD. Some 5 to 8 percent of kids have ADHD, according to CHADD. It wasn't until the 1980s that experts realized that ADHD could last into adulthood.

Grownups can get relief from the same medications used with children, as well as from behavioral therapy.

At Mt. Sinai, Dr. Solanto developed a 12-week program that focuses on what she calls meta-cognitive therapy. Participants learn how to self-manage tasks by using a planner, they get instruction in time management, and they are taught to break down jobs into manageable parts. Recently, 88 patients participated in a study in which half got traditional counseling and therapy and the other half received the meta-cognitive therapy. The results, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that those who received meta-cognitive therapy were twice as improved as those who got traditional therapy.

"In meta-cognitive therapy, we taught them skills and strategies like using a planner regularly and keeping track of appointments and a to-do list," Solanto says. "A major problem for ADHD adults is they tend to give up on things once the novelty wears off. So we came up with strategies to help them counter that. We helped them keep long-term goals in the forefront of their mind so that even though the rewards may be distant, they could sustain their motivation."

Noting that ADHD is a chronic, lifelong disorder that does not go away, Quinn says that by adulthood, about 40 percent of the people with ADHD are able to function without their ADHD affecting them.

"But I wouldn't say that you outgrow it," Quinn explains. "Overall, ADHD is still an underdiagnosed and undertreated condition, as opposed to the thinking that it is an overdiagnosed condition."


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Disclaimer: As a Health Coach, I will never attempt to diagnose, treat, make claims, prevent or cure any disease or condition. I advise my clients that Health Coaching is not intended to substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed health care professional.