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Adult ADHD diagnoses growing four times faster than kids' cases

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Posted at 2:18 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 16:18:32-04

DENVER, Colo. — In the last eight years, the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD has jumped by 30%, according to a study. But greater than that, a study published in JAMA found that adult ADHD diagnoses are growing at a rate four times faster than kids' diagnoses.

Still, millions of adults may be living with ADHD without knowing they have it. That’s where psychologist Andrew Fields steps in. Fields has dedicated his career to studying mental health and helping families get assessed for ADHD. His passion comes from personal experience. He was diagnosed with ADHD at 35 years old.

“I think the stereotype in most people's mind for ADHD is a child, usually a boy bouncing off the walls, and that's actually one of the least common types of ADHD,” said Fields. “I have a real soft spot in my heart for the adults who have been missed.”

Research by the Journal of Global Health Shows worldwide, 6.76% of adults, that’s 366 million people, have significant ADHD symptoms. The problem is it’s easy for adults to be missed. Symptoms can be subtle.

“You see this pattern of, ‘I get easily distracted, I can't stay on task. I am blurting stuff out. I'm interrupting people. I can't stay on something. I go to do something and I get distracted.’ And, if that's happening so much that it's impairing your life, that's what we'd call sort of the stereotypical symptoms,” said Fields of ADHD in adults.

Fields said adult ADHD can also show up as:

  1. Struggling with memory. You could have trouble recalling conversations or details, or you lose things often.
  2. Impulsive decision-making. That could mean buying something you don’t need or making a big decision without thinking it through.
  3. Getting overly frustrated at the small stuff. That could mean feelings of road rage or anger at the slightest disruption to your day.

Adult ADHD is also tougher to spot because it may not become disruptive until a major life change.

“New parents. New jobs. Every degree of schooling is when it shows up,” said Fields.

Fields said another common way adults find out they have ADHD: they see symptoms in their kids first.

“It's very genetic, and so, I oftentimes will have parents, you know, justifiably so, concerned for their child or teen. And we do an evaluation, and then they will reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, I might need to get looked at as well.’”

Fields said it can help a child get mentally on track if their parent is caring for their own mental health too. Getting evaluated and starting treatment can be life-changing. It was for Fields.

“I was driving somewhere and I said, ‘I feel vaguely patient.’ I said that out loud and I went, ‘Huh.’ And what I realized was happening is I still wanted all the traffic to go faster, but I didn't feel that ‘rawr’ feeling inside of me anymore. I started…I pulled over and started crying. I realized this is something I could never control about my brain before,” said Fields.

Left untreated, ADHD can lead to other health problems, substance abuse, and even decreased life expectancy. That’s why Fields wants people to know that help is out there, and there is no shame in wanting to be mentally well.

“It has nothing to do with who you are as a person; it has to do with what you're able to execute on. If you're struggling, don't wait,” said Fields.

Fields runs the Denver ADHD Center. To connect with him, click HERE.