11:54am Tuesday 02 June 2020

Specific program now available for adults with ADHD

It is thought that anywhere between three and seven percent of children suffer from this disorder, with almost twice as many boys as girls suffering from the disorder.

While this disorder resolves for a significant percentage of children, many children continued to suffer from this disorder through to adulthood.

Northfields Psychology Clinic at the University of Wollongong is now offering a specific treatment program using cognitive behavioural methods for adults diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD can be divided into two primary types. Firstly, there are those who suffer with concentration problems. These people are easily distracted and get quickly bored and frequently switch from one activity to another quickly. They may become bored after a few minutes on the task and have difficulty concentrating or maintaining focus.

The other main type is the hyperactive or impulsive. These symptoms include difficulty sitting or standing still. They may talk non-stop or be very active and fidgety. They can be quite emotional often expressing frustration or anxiety and they have extreme difficulty relaxing or doing quieter activities.

Not uncommonly many individuals have a combination of both symptoms. In addition, many adults with ADHD often have significant co-morbid mental health problems. These include a range of anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as more significant difficulties such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

Northfields Psychology Clinic Director Chris Allan said ADHD affects many more boys than girls.

“There appears to be a genetic component to it and children of parents with ADHD are more likely to develop this disorder. Some studies suggest that anywhere up to 5% of adults may suffer from this disorder,” he said.

“Adult ADHD has a significant impact on life outcomes and functioning. They are more likely to have lower academic and vocational achievement. They change jobs more often and have higher divorce rates. They have higher health costs even when psychiatric care is excluded. They are more at risk for a range of impulsive behaviours and are more likely to suffer a general emotional maladjustment.”


A recent paper indicated ADHD in the workplace has been associated with significant underemployment and underperformance at a cost of billions of dollars to the economy and thousands of dollars of income each year from individual family households of workers with ADHD.

Mr Allan said another study indicated that adults with ADHD were three times more likely to be currently unemployed.

He said they had problems keeping friends and were four times more likely to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

“While the general adult ADHD has a significant negative impact on people’s lives there is some evidence to suggest that adults with ADHD are likely to be more creative and more open to new ideas.”

Treatment until moderately recently has primarily been through the use of medication. Medication is the main treatment of choice.

“The most well-known of these medications is probably Ritalin. There are some non-standard medications that may be used as well.  The prescription and monitoring of medication is usually done through a psychiatrist,” Mr Allan said.

More recently, research has been indicating that there are considerable benefits to be found in adding psychosocial treatments of ADHD for adults.

“More specifically, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has some very strong research supporting its effectiveness in helping adults with ADHD to manage their symptoms. These treatments focus primarily on assisting adults to manage both the impulsive as well as the concentration difficulties. There are number of studies now that show significant reduction in overall symptoms and improved quality of life as well as better work and relationship outcomes when this type of treatment is added to medication,” Mr Allan said.

The program that Northfields Clinic is using is based on the work of Professor Safren at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine. He has done considerable research into the treatment of adult ADHD using CBT. He has developed a 12 to 15 week program with six core modules focusing on managing a number of aspects of this disorder. These modules include organisation and planning, managing distract ability, learning to think differently, overcoming procrastination, managing anger and frustration and improving communication skills.

“This program is designed to be an adjunct to medication and it is likely that individuals will need to continue on the medication while completing this program,” Mr Allan said.

For further details contact Chris Allan (Clinic Director) on 4221 4407 or 0431 162 760.

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