Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder sounds bad – but isn’t – or at least it isn’t as bad as it sounds – or, at least, it’s not necessarily so…..

Turbocharged superheros

Actually, many people with ADHD quite like some of it’s effects. For many with ADHD or who know someone with ADHD, it is a fascinating, rewarding and intriguing collection of ways of behaving that make them the fun, different, scatty, artistic, exciting, creative, generous – mad – person that they are. One top American specialist doctor calls having ADHD having a turbocharged race-car of a brain – but with bicycle brakes!

Unfortunately, the thing about turbocharged race-cars is that they are rather difficult to handle, especially when you don’t have very good brakes – and more especially without any training – and most especially when you don’t actually know what it is – and nor do any of those people around you – most of whom don’t have this mental turbocharger. Which is why many of those who didn’t have their ADHD diagnosed as a child feel they make such a mess of their lives because of it.

The trouble is…. being in trouble

People with ADHD are used to being in trouble. Mainly because there are things that those who don’t have ADHD learn to control or manage at quite an early age that ADHD people find impossible to ever manage – without help.  Non ADHD people find it really hard to understand that an ADHD person is really trying to control this thing but actually cannot do it. People with ADHD are often forgetful, unpunctual, unreliable, inappropriate, easily distracted, impulsive, inconsistent, loud, lazy, impatient, noisy… The list goes on and on! The fact is, living with someone with an uncontrolled turbocharged brain is not at all easy.

The good news is that for nearly everyone with ADHD (or who has to live with someone with ADHD) it is possible to control that turbocharger. In fact, with suitable medication and training, anyone with ADHD can control the negative sides of having a turbocharged brain while remaining that fun, different, scatty, artistic, exciting, creative, generous person they (almost) always are.

For most adults with ADHD, the overwhelming emotion when they receive the diagnosis is one of sheer relief at receiving an explanation for why it is that they are always messing up. However, getting the diagnosis is only the first step. The big task is to learn to control that turbocharger.

Taking back control

Luckily, the medications for ADHD can be amazingly effective. They are actually stimulants that calm the brain down. It seems really unlikely, but the thing that an ADHD brain needs to be manageable is a sort of drug that makes anyone else get all excitable and behaving like someone with ADHD!

Due to the effect of these stimulants on people who do not have ADHD, these are controlled drugs – so you have to have a type of prescription that no GPs would ever prescribe unless they knew that a specialist psychiatrist had made the diagnosis of ADHD. The problem is that, when the symptoms of ADHD are described, most people think that it might apply to them because being distracted or always late is something that lots of people experience. The difference is that people with ADHD do it all the time and in lots and lots of different but similar ways. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder but it can only be considered a disorder if the effect of ADHD impinges negatively on the person enough to impair their lives: so that is what the ADHD specialist has to judge to make the diagnosis – and to agree to prescribe.

Lack of NHS resource

The bad news is that, in the UK, there is a huge shortage of psychiatrists and therefore a major problem with getting ADHD diagnosed, especially as an adult. Frankly, you will be very lucky indeed to do so on the NHS in many areas of the UK. There are some excellent services, especially in London, but even if you are fortunate enough to be in a region where they offer an adult diagnosis service, the waiting lists are huge. On top of that, to even get on the waiting list you have to persuade your GP that you have a serious problem – and there is a sad lack of understanding of adult ADHD among many GPs. This means that you will probably have to go privately. We believe that we are the fastest and cheapest option at Psychiatry-UK  as we provide an online diagnosis for £300, and you can see a specialist psychiatrist within a week. Most private face to face diagnosis services cost between £500 and £700.

Diagnosis and beyond

Once you have a diagnosis, if you have also decided to try the medication, the specialist psychiatrist will have to make sure that you are on the right dose by using a process known as titration. This is done by starting you on a small dose and then, while keeping an eye on your blood pressure and heart rate and talking to you about your appetite and how you are feeling, increasing it over a few weeks, perhaps varying the type of medication or the time you take it, until they and you agree that you are on the right dose. At that point the psychiatrist will write to your GP and ask them to take over the prescribing – though you will then need to have an annual follow up appointment. To do this online, we will charge you between £150 and £250.

The next step is to learn to drive a turbocharged brain. Anyone who has such an asset should make the best of it! The sad fact is that too many adults with ADHD develop their own issues and problems by failing to understand what they are dealing with and suffer terrible side effects such as addiction problems, or anxiety or anger management issues as a result of their untreated ADHD. There are a number of specialist therapists and coaches who work in the field of ADHD. However, not surprisingly, most of them work with children. There are some of course, especially in the US, who specialise in adult ADHD so it may be sensible to get help from them online. It can be hugely helpful to get a coach who can talk about relationship problems – or who has experience of working with those with gambling or alcohol addiction. We have a number of such specialist coaches, both in the UK and in the US, to whom we refer on our patients.

Dr Elena Ghetau co-wrote this with Jon Chanter. Elena is a Psychiatrist with Psychiatry UK. You can view her profile here. Jon has a turbo-charged brain.