By Welansa Asrat, M.D.
Published: Saturday, October 10th, 2015
New York — This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and this year’s theme is stigma. The Stigma-Free initiative encourages us to educate others about mental illness, to see the person and not the diagnosis, and to take action on mental health. Despite all the initiatives to reduce stigma, it continues to discourage and shame many from getting help.
October also happens to be ADHD Awareness Month. Although plenty of adults struggle with symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which has a prevalence rate of 5% or higher, its impact is often not appreciated until it is too late.
The following are the most common symptoms seen in Adults with ADHD: Difficulty concentrating; Chronic forgetfulness; Poor organizational skills; Chronic boredom; Relationship problems; Employment problems; and Depression/Anxiety.
There are 3 types of ADHD: the inattentive type, the hyperactive-impulsive type and the combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive type. One reason why women are often not diagnosed until adulthood is because women tend to have the inattentive type, which is harder to detect without the obvious signs of hyperactivity.
The majority of ADHD patients that I see in my practice were diagnosed as adults. They managed to make it into adulthood without any professional help by finding creative ways to compensate for their ADHD symptoms. They were forced to address their symptoms in graduate school or as professionals, when their poor organizational skills and inability to complete simple tasks caused academic, occupational or interpersonal difficulties.
Adults with ADHD are labeled as ‘lazy,’ even though they tend to be highly creative and gifted people. Their lack of productivity and their impulsive behaviors often damage their relationships and self-esteem, which can negatively impact the overall trajectory of their lives. They also have higher rates of automobile accidents and emergency room visits, as well as a greater risk of substance abuse.
By the time an adult makes an appointment to see a mental health practitioner, he/she is often on the verge of losing a scholarship, a relationship or a job. Both the behavioral modifications and the medications provide some relief, including increased productivity. Though the medications can improve concentration and diminish impulsive behaviors, they have a number of potential side-effects including jitteriness, increased anxiety and decreased appetite.
On this Mental Illness Awareness Week and ADHD Awareness Month, let’s all take the pledge to educate, see the person and not the illness, and take action.