Learning Disability Today
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A new information resource for people who have, or suspect they might have, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been released by The Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The resource outlines what symptoms they should look out for, what they should expect from an assessment and various forms of self-help and treatment.
It comes as NHS data shows more than half a million people in the UK have been diagnosed with ADHD. There has been a recent increase in public awareness of the condition which has contributed to a steep rise in the number of people seeking an initial assessment.
Charities recently slammed a BBC documentary that examined private assessments for the diagnosis of ADHD. The programme, Private ADHD Clinics Exposed, followed undercover reporter Rory Carson as he attended private ADHD clinics suspected of inappropriately diagnosing the neurodevelopmental disorder.
The Panorama investigation found that although the NHS is paying for thousands of patients to go to private clinics for assessments, clinics carried out only limited mental health assessments of patients.
One charity said that the approach that Panorama took has caused damage to the ADHD community and adds to the public myth and stigma that it is ‘easy to get a diagnosis of ADHD’.
The College has worked with people who have lived experience of ADHD to develop information that better reflects the experiences and needs of people who have the condition. The resource also outlines the best ways for friends and family to support their loved ones.
Dr Dietmar Hank, expert contributor to the College’s updated ADHD in adults resource for patients and carers, said: “ADHD can have a devastating impact on people’s education, their livelihoods and their relationships when left untreated. I’ve met many people who have struggled for years because they and those around them weren’t aware of the condition.
“This resource offers clear and simple information that will make it easier for people to recognise they might have ADHD. It is a good starting point for anyone who is interested in learning more about ADHD, including essential information how the condition is assessed and treated. It can also easily be shared with friends and family so they can develop a better understanding of what it’s like to live with the condition.
“The resource also delves into more topical issues, such as whether ADHD is getting more common, gender differences, and how someone’s experience of ADHD might change over time. Anyone who reads this resource and thinks they might have ADHD should contact their GP for more support and information.”
Daniel Okin, 40, was diagnosed with ADHD in December. This is his story.
“I remember finding it really difficult to concentrate at school because my teachers would talk to the class for an entire lesson without encouraging any form of discussion or debate. I tried to find ways to occupy myself, which could be disruptive, but no one ever suspected I had ADHD.
“As I grew older, I started noticing I was having similar problems at work. I would forget to make a note of appointments and double or even triple book things. It would also take me a massive amount of effort to focus on listening to people and they could often tell if I wasn’t paying attention to them. For 10 years I was exhausted, and it wouldn’t be unusual for me to feel completely shattered by 5pm.
“The situation became even worse during lockdown. I was working from home and started eating as a source of stimulation because I was feeling bored. I would order breakfast at 10.30am, lunch at 12.30pm and dinner by 6pm and this would add up to around 3,900 calories a day. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was clearly part of my ADHD.
“It wasn’t until a family member with similar difficulties was diagnosed with the condition that I realised I might have it too. I tried to get an initial assessment with the NHS but there was a 12 month wait which meant I’d have to wait a year before receiving any form of care or treatment. Luckily, I was able to approach the same doctor my family member had used and secured an appointment with them.
“You read horror stories about people being offered 10-minute assessments but mine was very thorough and took four hours. We went over my school reports and saw a common theme among my teachers was that they’d say I was a nice child, but I needed to pay more attention in class and stop trying to get other children involved in jokes. We also talked about me as a person, why I couldn’t stick to things like diets and why I would agree to meet people and then forget.
“The doctor diagnosed me with ADHD and started me on both cognitive behavioural therapy and medication at the same time. All my colleagues at work have talked about what a difference it has made to my performance, and I no longer feel tired by 5pm. Treatment has also helped me to routinely cook and go to the gym which has allowed me to lose 2 1/2 stone in the last seven months.
“None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t realised I might have ADHD, which is why it’s so important that people with the condition share their knowledge with others. Proper support and care can be life-changing, but people need to know to ask for help first.”