Russell Barkley, recognized authority on ADHD, gave a powerful keynote presentation at the November 2018 International Conference on ADHD titled Advances in Understanding the Symptoms of ADHD. He outlined the numerous and potential serious impairments that ADHD can have on major life activities. When not properly treated and managed, people with ADHD do not learn to regulate their moods, impulses, and actions. This makes them more susceptible to health issues (not properly managing weight, exercise, alcohol, drugs), anxiety, depression, risky behaviors, lower academic achievement, and occupational and financial difficulties.
ADHD is a serious public health problem. Primary Care Physicians need to
- recognize the role of ADHD in diminished health and wellness in their practice.
- recognize that their patients who are failing in typical health improvements programs may have adult ADHD that is undermining their success
- assess for adult ADHD, and
- treat it or refer to others more expert in doing so.
Mental health professionals need to
- broaden their evaluations to include health, lifestyle, and other factors related to life expectancy
- include recommendations for reducing those first-order risk factors related to the life expectancy
ADHD is absolutely treatable. Every day you can see successful people who have managed to overcome and thrive in spite of, and in many cases because of, the differences in their neurobiology. Options for ADHD treatment begin with recognition and acceptance that EACH brain is unique. When I start a workshop or lecture, I always begin by saying that while we associate the word “Spectrum” with Autism, I believe we must reclaim that word to understand that we are each unique. We all have strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.
ADHD is real, and it DOES create unique, and in some cases very difficult challenges. The most important aspect of treating ADHD is education: understanding the impact ADHD has on learning, motivation, and behavior. Only then can parents, educators, and mental health professionals be prepared to learn and teach skills and strategies to those who do not fit within the “typical, mainstream” ways of operating.
I urge parents to seek out professionals who have demonstrated a level of knowledge and a willingness to stay current in their understanding of ADHD. Don’t take a “wait and see” approach. Remember that treatment is not just about medication – it’s about having a non-judgmental belief that your child is good, wonderful, and capable. She or he may need extra time, patience, strategies, tools, support, and did I mention patience?
ADHD is not a failed version of normal. It is a part of the whole wonderful being.