By Natalie June Reilly
Once thought to be a behavioral disorder exclusive to children--the restless grade-schooler struggling to pay attention in class; the young child straining to stay on task?Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seem to be following many children into adulthood.
So, what happens when the restless grade-schooler grows up? Or, graduates from college? Gets a job? According to Tanya Feinberg, M.D., who is board certified in general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, many adults will go their entire lives without ever being diagnosed, which could be a recipe for disaster. "It has been found that not treating children with ADHD puts them at higher risk for experimentation with illicit drugs and alcohol in their teenage years," says Dr. Feinberg.
While Dr. Feinberg points out that ADD/ADHD is actually under-diagnosed, one of her patients, who we'll call "Louise," learned recently as an adult that her troubling symptoms had a name. "I believe I have had ADD all my life, but just never recognized it was a true medical condition," says Louise. "I always thought something was just wrong with me?why can't I get this project under control...why can't I focus on one thing?"
The 41-year-old married mother of two and successful Valley business owner was always a straight "A" student in school. She has done well for herself both personally and professionally, but had often struggled with deep-seated feelings of incompetence, frustration and even depression.
"ADD has certainly impacted my life," says Louise. "Dealing with scattered and unfocused thoughts made me feel more stressed and less able to handle every-day life," she adds. "Life, in general, just felt chaotic."
According to Dr. Feinberg, studies show as many as 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD suffer with symptoms as adults?that's eight million people, many of whom have not been diagnosed or treated. "When this disorder is causing significant problems in a person's life, such as trouble in their job, trouble in their relationships, depression and/or anxiety, that's the time treatment is recommended," says Dr. Feinberg.
Treatment is multifaceted, consisting of medication and/or behavioral modification therapy. Dr. Feinberg says treatment should ultimately be tailored to meet the unique needs of the patient and the family. "People benefit much more from therapy when they are on medication," says Dr. Feinberg, "because they are better able to pay attention and put those skills into practice." Louise is currently taking medication and is finally learning to live with and manage her symptoms.
"The greatest gift has been realizing that it's not my fault," says Louise. "Educate yourself on this disorder?don't let feelings of shame or embarrassment stop you; there are so many resources available now that can make a big difference."
Infolink: Dr. Feinberg M.D.
Natalie June Reilly is a Valley freelance writer and mother of two.