As children’s ADHD diagnoses rise, Parents discover they have it, too.

When her son Albert was diagnosed with ADHD at age 11, it didn’t occur to Sophie she might have the condition too. Like every other multi-tasking mom, she could be forgetful at times, but who isn’t?

With an increase in children being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in recent years, parents who grew up in a time when receiving such a diagnosis was rare – are starting to understand that perhaps they have it too.

What is ADHD?

Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Adult ADHD can lead to unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, low self-esteem, and other problems.

Though it's called adult ADHD, symptoms start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, ADHD is not recognized or diagnosed until the person is an adult.

Some people with ADHD show fewer signs as they age, but some adults continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, including difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness and restlessness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. As children mature into adults, hyperactivity may decrease, but struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.

ADHD Diagnoses on the Rise

An in-depth analysis of trends in the use of medications to treat ADHD conducted by Express Scripts Canada reveals the number of people with the condition is on the rise. Here are some key findings:

  • At Express Scripts Canada, we saw an 11.4% volume increase in the use of ADHD medications as well as a 16.6% increase in spend.
  • The primary drivers for increased usage include an influx of new claimants for ADHD medication in adults between the ages of 19 and 35.
  • Female usage of ADHD medications increased 23% in 2020 and made up 45% of total ADHD drug claimants in 2021.

Causes and Risk Factors

While there is no consensus about precisely what causes ADHD, it is believed that the most likely cause is genetics. If you are born into a family where there is a history of ADHD, you are more likely to be diagnosed with it. Attempts to link the disorder to parenting style, exposure to television and environmental hazards at a young age have not been proven.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

 ADHD is a condition that makes it hard to pay attention. People with ADHD also may be more active than normal and tend to act without thinking. Other symptoms may include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills or problems focusing on a task
  • Trouble multitasking and poor planning ability
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks

A doctor relies on a combination of exams, tests and other information to diagnose ADHD. While it is often noticed by parents and teachers in school-aged children, it is more difficult to notice in adults because they maintain relationships and hold steady jobs. As such, it is not unusual for a parent to discover they have ADHD when their child is diagnosed with the disorder.

Treatment for adult ADHD is similar to treatment for childhood ADHD. Adult ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD.

When to see a doctor

If any of the symptoms provided above continually disrupt your life, talk to your doctor.