It is now widely accepted that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that not only affects children but adults too. It has been shown that levels of ADHD are as high as 14% of the general population with at least 70% of these individuals continuing to show symptoms into adulthood (Vernon, Frick & Gruzelier, 2004).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria states that for a diagnosis of ADHD, an individual needs to exhibit symptoms for at least six months to the point that symptoms are disruptive and are inappropriate to typical and developmental level and academic functioning. Furthermore, symptoms must also be present before the age of seven and symptoms must be present in at least two settings.
However, there are several disadvantages with the current DSM criteria. One disadvantage includes unreliable recall of age of onset which is particularly difficult to account for in adults. The current criteria is primarily constructed for a child population and does not reflect the growing understanding and acceptance of adult ADHD (Bresnahan & Barry, 2002). Age of onset, before the age of seven, is not justifiable and not based on any empirical evidence and the duration of only six months of experiencing difficulties is too short, and does not reflect that ADHD is a developmental disability rather than a difficulty based solely on the context (Barkley, 2003). Again, this criteria is more difficult for adults to fulfil as may find it difficult to recall their experiences before the age of seven.
As with ADHD in children, ADHD in adults often coexists with other neurodevelopmental difficulties but also other wider complications. These can include money difficulties, gambling or addiction problems, difficulty maintaining relationships, trouble with the law in addition to employment complications. It is essential that a correct diagnosis and management is put in place to improve the individuals quality of life. If you have any concerns about any of these difficulties, please contact your specialist/consultant or we would be happy to advise you further.