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Author: Dr Pablo JeczmienConsultant Psychiatrist

I often see patients whose ADHD has been misdiagnosed as Bipolar or a personality disorder because these symptoms are similar. When these patients start on the right treatment plan, I have witnessed a quite dramatic improvement in many.
Dr Pablo Jeczmien MD


ADHD symptoms explained

The effects of ADHD can be far reaching and impact on many aspects of an individual’s life. It may be hard for someone with ADHD / ADD to have stable, lasting relationships or to progress at work, to manage their finances well and to feel on top of everyday mundane tasks. There is also an increased risk of criminality or substance abuse in adults with ADHD.

1. Concentration

Problems of concentration are common in adult ADHD and are exacerbated as the pressures of life increase and more demands are made on the individual to remain calm, organised and focused.

Invariably, there is a tipping point where the level of the complexity and demands of life cannot be overcome by the adaptive coping strategies and natural intelligence levels. Difficulties can arise as those with adult ADHD try to manage life and their difficulties concentrating, possibly leading to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

2. Hyperactivity

The ADHD symptom of hyperactivity that is often seen in children, can be experienced differently in adults. In adults, hyperactivity is often more internalised – resulting in a strong sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness. Again, this can add to feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and low mood – which if not understand, can result in depression developing.

3-4% adults meet criteria for ADHD


Common adult ADHD / ADD symptoms

The following are some of the most common symptoms of ADHD / ADD explained.

Difficulties with concentration:

  • Carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • Poor organisational and time management skills
  • Inability to focus; zoning out in conversations and finding it hard to listen
  • Continually losing or misplacing things
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness, edginess and difficulties relaxing
  • Depression when inactive

Hyperfocus:

Becoming absorbed in tasks that are stimulating to the point of all else being ignored

Hyperactivity:

  • Inner restlessness
  • Easily bored
  • Constantly craving for excitement
  • Difficulties with socialising:
  • Difficulty keeping quiet
  • Blurting responses, and poor social timing when talking to others
  • Frequent interruption of others
  • Difficulties sustaining relationships

Download our ADHD Assessment Guide

Mood Problems:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability and a quick temper
  • Inability to deal with stress; easily flustered
  • Extreme impatience
  • Low self-esteem

Recklessness:

  • Lack of planning
  • Taking risks – both with one’s own property and other people’s safety
  • Making decisions without a full evaluation of the situation or consequences

66%
adults with ADHD have at least 1 other mental health condition

I have struggled with mood swings for over 20 years and have been given many diagnoses including bipolar. This is the first time I have had a comprehensive assessment – Dr Jeczmien was able to give me a diagnosis of ADHD and recommended treatment which has made a dramatic change in my life. I now have the ability to function according to my true capacity and ability.

Robert, London


Relationship between ADHD and other mental health conditions

ADHD / ADD in adults can commonly be accompanied by other conditions, such as depression and anxiety. It’s thought that there are both biological and environmental reasons for this.

For instance, it may be that people with ADHD also have a natural susceptibility to other conditions, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorders and Bipolar Disorders. It may also be that the symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulties with concentration, difficulties at work and in relationships, can cause or exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression.

Alcohol and drug use can be high in those who have ADHD – these substances can be used as coping mechanisms or ‘self-medication’. Unfortunately, using drugs and alcohol can make the symptoms of ADHD worse.


Common mental health conditions with ADHD

Increasingly, I see patients who are convinced that they suffer from Bipolar Disorders due to the mood swings they experience. Even more worrisome is that some of them have indeed been given such a diagnosis (usually Bipolar Type 2) either by the GP, a psychologist or even a psychiatrist. Some of these patients have even been given the diagnosis of Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder. We know that patients with ADHD – which starts in early childhood – experience low self-esteem, rejection and social difficulties leading to difficulties in managing emotions too. In cases where the diagnosis of ADHD is missed, it is therefore “easy” to confuse it with EUPD – and this can have quite devastating consequences for the patient due to the fundamental differences between them both regarding the prognosis and more important the treatment.
MD MRCPsych

Consultant Psychiatrist
Brighton

Dr Pablo Jeczmien is a Consultant Psychiatrist in General Adult Psychiatry for the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Jeczmien has a medical degree and is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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