What happens if you don’t treat A.D.D?
Mr. B. was 21 years old when he first came to my office. Throughout junior grade school he had been fidgety, disorganized, concentrating poorly, and with low grades so he was diagnosed with a learning disability. He was in university when I met him. He was sent to see me by the school counselor who suspected A.D.D.
As an adult, he continued to have the same difficulty and symptoms that he had as a child. What was new however was his mood swings. Since his teens he described recurring episodes when his mood would be very elevated with high energy, ambition, optimism, impulsivity and racing thoughts of great plans and ideas. These episodes would be followed by a plunge into despair, low energy, low ambition and racing negative depressing thoughts.
Mr. B. was demonstrating a very typical life history of A.D.D. symptoms as a child which continued into adulthood. After adolescence he developed symptoms of what was clearly bipolar mood disorder along with the A.D.D.
He was treated
He was treated with mood stabilizers and his grades went from a failing average to a “B” average within a few months. His moods stabilized and he became a consistently pleasant happy person, delighted with his new academic success. He still had a learning disability but it was much easier to deal with. With the use of mood stabilizers, both his symptoms of A.D.D. and mood disorder were resolved since they were caused by the same chemical imbalance.
If left untreated
When children with A.D.D. go untreated, they may become sullen with low self esteem, withdrawn, irritable, rebellious and conditioned for failure. They then associate with other kids with the same disability since they are rejected by their peers who can’t tolerate their impulsive behavior. In their teens they may become rebellious, defiant and often have trouble with the law. When experimenting with drugs and alcohol, they notice for the first time, that they are able to relax and concentrate until the drink wears off. They then continue to drink because it is the first time in their lives that they have been able to have control of their thoughts. There is a very high incidence of drug and alcohol addiction among untreated A.D.D. and mood disordered adults. Chronic use of these substances will actually make the chemical imbalance worse.
With age, the hyperactive symptoms decline but the mood symptoms increase so there is a very high incidence of depression, anxiety and mood swings added to the inability to concentrate. Untreated A.D.D. may lead to a lifetime of blame, shame, failure, anger, social isolation, restlessness, underemployment, relationship failure, drug and alcohol abuse and mood disorder. They lead disorganized lives, forgetful, chronically late, poor time managers, frequently change jobs, homes and spouses. They have severe interpersonal problems due to impulsiveness and intolerance of the opinions of others. This condition affects every aspect of life and personality. I consider it urgent to treat anyone suspected of A.D.D. as soon as the diagnosis is made.
Adults with A.D.D. are often discovered when they bring their own children in for an A.D.D. assessment. At that time the parent may recognize that they too have had the same symptoms their whole life.
It used to be thought that A.D.D. ended in adolescence. It is now known that in forty to sixty percent of cases, the condition continues on into adulthood.
Adults can be treated with Methylphenidate (Ritalin) but more often with antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Counseling is very important for the adult with A.D.D. since there is usually so much emotional hurt and scarring to overcome before progress can be made.
Treatment will make these people more relaxed, tolerant, dependable, confident, happy with good self control and self esteem
To see the self assessment checklist click Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
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