How I Stopped Getting Crippled by My ADHD
A new study by Yale University psychologists reveals that even when adults are fully healthy and functioning, they often experience symptoms of ADHD in their adult lives.
The study, published online in Psychological Science, found that adults with ADHD are less likely to engage in daily activities that require sustained attention.
In addition, when they do engage in such activities, they are often less likely than their peers to get distracted and fail to keep up.
“The idea that we all are going to go through the same amount of attention and get the same levels of cognitive ability, even though the average adult is more successful at both, is just not true,” says Yale psychologist and study co-author John Bussard.
Bussart is also the director of the ADHD Treatment and Education Center at Yale.
The researchers interviewed 6,000 adults ages 16 to 80.
Participants were divided into three groups: healthy adults, adults with mild ADHD and adults with moderate ADHD.
They also were asked about their social activities and reported how frequently they engaged in those activities.
“The average adult was engaged in more than half of their daily activities and engaged in some type of cognitive task at least once a week,” Bussar says.
“But they were significantly less engaged than their non-ADHD peers.”
What the study found is that the majority of participants reported a lack of engagement in their daily lives, but there was also evidence of difficulty maintaining focus on tasks.
Among the ADHD group, about half reported difficulty maintaining attention to daily tasks, and nearly two-thirds reported difficulty in maintaining a high level of concentration.
That level of attention was correlated with low self-efficacy and low overall well-being.
For the ADHD participants, the study also found that the average ADHD adult had trouble maintaining the same level of motivation for the day, and that those who did were more likely to have difficulty in staying focused on their daily life and engaging in activities that required sustained attention or attention-demanding cognitive tasks.”ADHD has no clear or easily-recognizable symptoms, so the diagnosis is often based on symptoms that aren’t necessarily true,” Buhart says.
He adds that the findings suggest that ADHD could be more a symptom of chronic stress and stress-related health problems than it is of a medical disorder.
For adults with serious ADHD, Bussars study also revealed that their health-related comorbidities also had an impact on their cognitive abilities.
About one-quarter of the adults with severe ADHD reported difficulty concentrating, and almost half reported a problem maintaining attention.
Buharts study found that among adults with a history of stress and other conditions that can impair cognitive functioning, more than a third reported difficulty managing daily tasks.
Busesard says that, in general, adults who have ADHD are more likely than other adults to be in a stressful relationship, have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or have been physically or sexually abused.
“ADHD is not a mental disorder; it is a chronic health condition that impacts your quality of life,” Busesart says, adding that the most important factor is the amount of time that a person spends engaged in daily life.
“We don’t have to be a bad person or not be good in terms of our mental health, our physical health or our emotional health.”
The study was conducted by Bussarns and his colleagues from the Yale School of Medicine, and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The research was supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Research Service Office of the Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology.