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Having Kids Often Leads to a Diagnosis
Many adults only learn they have ADHD when their children start exhibiting symptoms. This is not surprising. ADHD is caused by signaling problems in the brain and has a strong genetic component.
“If you find a kid with ADHD, you’ve got a 50/50 chance that one of those parents has ADHD,” says Dr. Tuckman. “So, I call this a two-for-one diagnosis. The kid gets diagnosed, and one of the parents says, ‘Huh. I was just like that.’”
ADHD has actually been around for awhile, says Patricia Quinn, M.D., (www.ADDvance.com) director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD. It was first identified in the medical literature in 1902 and appeared in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders II in 1968. At the time, it was described as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood” and clinicians believed kids outgrew its symptoms. But that’s not so, says Dr. Quinn.
An estimated 4 percent of adults have ADHD, according to a 2006 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The disorder is found worldwide, says Dr. Quinn. “The numbers or ratios are about the same everywhere, so it’s not just a uniquely American condition,” she says.
While the exact cause is unknown, environmental factors may combine with genetic ones to increase the odds of developing ADHD. For example, a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics showed that children with the greatest concentration of pesticides in their urine were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Still, there isn’t enough scientific data yet to point to an exact cause.
The symptoms of ADHD show up differently depending on your age. In childhood, the condition is characterized by hyperactivity, poor concentration and the inability to focus. During the teen years, when the prefrontal cortex (or “CEO” part of the brain) starts developing, organizational issues are likely to crop up. This can later lead to job performance problems, such as missing deadlines, “zoning out” in staff meetings and having a hard time making decisions.
“For example, you wouldn’t expect an 8-year-old to be organized, but you would definitely expect a 28-year-old to be able to get to work on time,” Dr. Quinn says. “We see these executive functioning skills being deficient in adults with ADHD.”
How does ADHD affect adult relationships? Keep reading.