Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Adults

Will H. Canu and John T. Mitchell

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Adults

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a highly heritable, heterogeneous, and relatively common psychological disorder that originates in childhood and, for many affected individuals, continues to cause substantial functional impairment into adulthood. The prevalence of this disorder in childhood was estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 to be approximately 8 percent in the United States, with evidence showing more consistency than divergence from this rate in other regions worldwide. Three ADHD types are currently established by the American Psychiatric Association: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, Predominantly Inattentive, and Combined (i.e., prominent symptoms of both hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention). Extensive research in child and adolescent populations has established that the hallmark symptoms that are broadly characterized by cognitive, behavioral, and emotional disinhibition tend to be associated with impairment in school, at home, in extracurricular activities, in relationships with peers and family members, and in other important endeavors (e.g., maintaining personal safety). Adding to the heterogeneity of the disorder, comorbidity with other psychological syndromes is common in clinical populations, with disruptive behavior (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder), mood, anxiety, tic, and substance use disorders most frequently co-occurring. The term “adult ADHD” has been used somewhat loosely, seeming to refer in different contexts to one or more of the three following groups: (1) those who are diagnosed with ADHD in childhood whose related symptoms continue into adulthood to such an extent that functional impairment persists; (2) individuals who are not diagnosed in childhood yet exhibited signs of the disorder from an early age and present for assessment and intervention in adulthood due to increased task demands that result in impairment; and (3) persons who only begin to evince symptoms and impairment related to ADHD in adulthood. While research has demonstrated that presentation of bona fide ADHD symptoms may occur as late as early-to-middle adolescence, the current consensus among researchers in the field seems to argue against the existence of this latter group. In other words, it is virtually always the case that clear signs of ADHD at some point in childhood are at least retrospectively apparent in cases that merit a clinical diagnosis, and where such data is not present it is likely that a given individual is suffering from another condition that mimics ADHD symptoms or is malingering. For decades, ADHD was widely considered—by professionals and the public alike—to be confined to childhood and adolescence, and only after long-term, longitudinal studies concluded in the 1980s and 1990s that functional impairment commonly persisted in ADHD probands did substantial focus turn to affected adults. Despite this decades-long delay, research on the adult manifestation of ADHD is burgeoning, and broadly indicates that many of those affected in childhood continue to suffer deleterious outcomes in educational, professional, occupational, and relational domains of life. What follows is a brief primer on the related research; the reader seeking genuine expertise regarding ADHD in adulthood is encouraged to use these resources as a springboard to other, more extensive material.

Article.  13336 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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