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What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Neurodevelopment disorders are a group of conditions that affect how the brain develops. They range in their severity and impact on people’s lives.
They include ADHD, but also other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Tic Disorder and Tourette Syndrome. They are typically assessed and diagnosed through a specialist neurodevelopmental service.
ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood. Sometimes it is not recognised in childhood and is diagnosed later, as an adult.
ADHD is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. It is estimated that 2.5% of the adult population may have ADHD.
Signs and symptoms of ADHD
People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. Individuals may have symptoms that fall into one or all of the categories:
- Inattention – difficulty concentrating, finishing a task or organising things, easily distracted, forgetful, have difficulty listening when people are talking and other things are going on.
- Hyperactivity – fidgety, find it difficult to sit still, talking excessively, always on the go as if ‘powered by a motor’.
- Impulsivity – acting quickly without thinking about the consequences, impulsive spending, interrupting other people, difficulty waiting their turn.
Many of us can experience these symptoms from time-to-time but for people with ADHD, they may happen on a daily basis and can have an impact on their mental health.
People living with ADHD may struggle in education settings or employment due to ‘time-blindness’*. Impulsive spending may lead to financial difficulties.
*Time-blindness is the difficulty or inability to sense the passing of time or in recalling when certain memories took place. It is a common symptom in people diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD and autism. However, anyone can experience it on occasion.
ADHD can co-occur with many other neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions. These can include (but aren’t limited to) autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and substance misuse.
Many people diagnosed later in life may have been diagnosed initially with one of these conditions. This is because many of the presentations can be similar and harder to identify.
Self-help advice for adults with ADHD
Whether or not you have received a diagnosis for, or think you have, ADHD, looking after your own physical and mental wellbeing is important. There are simple things we can all do to help look after our mental health:
- Visit our looking after yourself section for more information and advice.
- There are 5 steps we can all take to look after our mental wellbeing, see if you can incorporate some of our Five Ways to Wellbeing into your everyday life. There you can find some ideas on how to do this, or make up your own.
- If you are feeling anxious, have a look on Melo’s Anxiety page.
- Have a look at our self-help tips, resources and courses below to help you better understand and manage ADHD.
Self-care tips to use if you have or suspect you have ADHD can include:
- Setting alarms/timers on your phone/watch/computer for appointments, medication, regular breaks, eating and drinking and exercise. This may help with managing time-blindness.
- Doing regular exercise whether that’s walking, running, going to the gym or taking the dog out, it all counts. When you have ADHD, you may forget to do the things that will help your brain regulate itself so getting out into the fresh air can help with improved concentration and anxiety too.
- Meal planning. Cooking can be an overwhelming experience for people with ADHD. One helpful tip shared by people with ADHD is to batch cook. Make more than you need in one go and store away the extra food for another meal.
- Find a support group on social media or in your local area. Speaking to other people who are experiencing the same things as you are, can be really helpful.
- Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling, they may be able to help you.
If you need further help
If the information, advice, resources and courses on this page have not been helpful and/or you think you need more help, there are many free support services available.
If you are worried about your general mental health, contact NHS Mental Health 111 Option 2. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free to call from a mobile (even when the caller has no credit left) or from a landline. The service will provide immediate support over the phone to help cope with how you are feeling, and if needed, a referral to mental health services will be arranged.
If you live in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) area, and are aged over 18, you can contact your GP surgery to make an appointment with a Psychological Health Practitioner (PHP) or a GP. PHPs are NHS mental health practitioners, that are available at some GP surgeries in ABUHB area, who provide a free service for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems. Appointments can be either face to face, or over the phone.
If you are under 18 or worried about someone aged under 18 and need advice/self-referral to local mental health and wellbeing services in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, contact SPACE-Wellbeing.
Or alternatively contact another approved helpline or service. Some services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
I am an adult and I think I have ADHD; how do I get an assessment?
As the first port of call, please speak to your Doctor/GP who can discuss your concerns with you. It helps to take some notes with you about how you’ve been feeling and what symptoms you’ve been experiencing so your GP can get a better understanding of what is going on for you.
If they think there’s a case for assessment, they will then refer you to the appropriate service. You will be informed in writing if you have been added to the assessment waiting list. If you need support while waiting, please have a look at our resources and helplines below.
What happens at the assessment?
In ABUHB the assessment/diagnostic process may take place over several appointments and will be conducted using structured interviews by trained professionals. ABUHB follow national guidance for assessment and diagnosis of Adult ADHD.
Will the assessment be in person or online?
Assessments can be undertaken both in person and online.
Do I need to bring anyone with me?
You can bring someone along to support you, it can be helpful to have someone who knows you well attend with you.
What happens if I’m diagnosed with ADHD? What are the next steps?
The health care professional will discuss any possible treatment options with you, they will also provide you with useful information and advice on managing any difficulties you might experiencing.
Last updated: 07.09.2023