Q: Can I have ADHD but appear not to from the viewpoint of others?

A: This can be possible. Generally, it would be if you have mild ADHD and have put in effort over time to manage some of your behaviours. Perceptions of ADHD vary in some segments of society or with respect to activities (e.g. high risk sports or activities) such that your ADHD behaviours are not seen as(or are not) distinct from other neuro-typical persons engaging in the same behaviour.

Q: Is ADHD a mental illness?

A: No. It is a neuro-developmental condition of neuro-atypicality. Although listed in the DSM-5 it is a neurological condition and experience.

Q: Is ADHD a disability?

A: An experience of disability must be viewed in terms of a person’s abilities; the task/activity they are engaging in; and, the context. In some situations, AD/HD can be an advantage. In terms of a school student being eligible for reasonable accommodations, being diagnosed as experiencing a disability can assist. This can apply to an adult in the workplace. AD/HD is recognised ass a disability. If it is unable to be managed, AD/HD can be a disability. AD/HD is classified as a disability under the 1992 Disability Discrimination Act.

Q: What if ADHD is untreated? What can be the consequences?

A: If ADHD is untreated, the consequences are different for a child or adolescent. Here we’ll address the consequences for an adult. The consequences will vary depending on the sub-type of ADHD you experience, your social setting and your underlying personality. Many people with ADHD report they experience physical and/or emotional exhaustion from fighting your physiology to control your distracted and/or “over the top” behaviours on the job and in an intimate relationship. If you are undertaking a course of study, you will possibly always be late submitting assignments. You will likely procrastinate starting assignments and create stress. You may unintentionally miss classes or turn up at the wrong time. You will always be losing things. You may experience trouble with friendships if others find you always interrupt them, or you are seen as too talkative – you “never shut up”. You may experience successive unsuitable relationships due to impulsivity. Family life may also suffer. Untreated ADHD can increase tensions between partners and between parents and children. You may be at increased risk of driving accidents and accidents during high-risk thrill-seeking activities. We know that untreated ADHD results in higher rates of divorce and job loss, compared with the general population.

Q: What does an assessment of Adult ADHD involve?

A: Ideally an assessment of Adult ADHD will involve a clinical interview asking questions about your childhood and adolescent history; family history; school experiences; current functioning in your workplace, relationship, leisure time, any education you may be undertaking and a range of experiences e.g sleep habit, overall health, moods etc. You will also be asked to complete some self-rating scales. If possible a close friend, partner or relative may be asked, with your permission to also complete a questionnaire about their observations of your behaviours.

Q: Some professionals don’t use the term “symptoms” referring to ADHD behaviours. Why is this?

A: Professionals who see ADHD as a neuro-atypicality rather than a “mental illness” will refer to the behaviours characteristic of ADHD as “behaviours”. Their viewpoint is that ADHD is not a “mental illness”. They see it as a difference – as neuro-atypicality. As a minority experience for approximately 5% of the population. They believe that behaviour can be viewed and measured via its dimensions. They note that we all behave and behaviour has to be in a context and relating to a task. Behaviour can be analysed by looking at its frequency; duration; intensity; latency; topography; context – and in some cases, developmental appropriateness. When assessing a behaviour the dimensions can be analysed with respect to how often it occurs – too much, too little, ought not to occur, needs to be learnt; how long it occurs – too long; not long enough; not at all; not intense enough, too intensely; too immediately, taking too long; what it is experienced as – the “shape” of it; the situation in which it occurs. Developmental appropriateness is generally not pertinent to adult ADHD – it is usually relevant to children, adolescents and elders.