Could you have ADHD? Olivia Attwood opens up about being diagnosed as an adult

·7-min read
Olivia Attwood has opened up about being diagnosed with ADHD as a adult, pictured in November 2019. (Getty Images)
Olivia Attwood has opened up about being diagnosed with ADHD as a adult, pictured in November 2019. (Getty Images)

Olivia Attwood has opened up about being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an adult and revealed how it impacts her every day life. 

The 30-year-old Love Island star spoke about the condition while appearing on ITV's Loose Women, explaining that she was diagnosed while seeking treatment for anxiety and depression.

"Later in life I found myself with a severe battle of anxiety and depression, came under the care of a psychiatrist who specialised in ADHD," she said. 

"It was a stroke of luck that it was diagnosed. [It's a] state of being constantly overwhelmed".

When asked about what type of ADHD she had, the reality TV star replied: "There are three major types. I fall into a combined type...

"There’s the typical type people look for – hyperactive child in the classroom, throwing things, breaking things. Other types – internalised, fidgeting, restless thoughts, disorganised, acting on impulse."

Read more: Woman diagnosed with ADHD at 44: 'I thought it only affected young boys'

Around 2.5% of adults are thought to be living with ADHD. (Getty Images)
Around 2.5% of adults are thought to be living with ADHD. (Getty Images)

Attwood went on to say that it is often harder for girls to be diagnosed and that it took her until her late 20s to get her condition recognised.

"Through my teens and early 20s when it wasn’t managed, I acted without thinking, it caused myself and people around me a lot of stress," she explained.

The TV personality also shared why she is choosing to openly discuss her condition.

"I'd not heard others speak about it so I kept it to myself," she revealed.

"It only came out by accident on Instagram stories. I got loads of DMs from young women and mothers, who wanted to hear more".

Read more: Why so many women are only diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood

What is ADHD?

Many think of ADHD as a childhood condition, as that is often when it is diagnosed, but a growing number of people in the UK are sharing experiences of being diagnosed with the condition in adulthood. 

Research reveals around 2.5% of adults are thought to be living with ADHD, but despite this figure and a growing awareness, many people still struggle to get a diagnosis. 

According to the NHS, ADHD is a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse.

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but it has been shown to run in families.

Research has also identified a number of possible differences in the brains of people with ADHD when compared with those without the condition.

“ADHD is at its core an attention problem, and when our attentional processes malfunction, that can impact on many different areas of the way we function as people," explains consultant psychiatrist, Dr Paul McLaren.

"Typically ADHD is thought of as the restless pupil who cannot sit at a desk to complete a piece of work."

Watch: Shaun Ryder opens up about how his ADHD led to his drug abuse. 

What are the symptoms of adult ADHD?

While symptoms are similar for both adults and children, elements differ or change as we age.

In adults, the NHS says symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define. This is largely due to a lack of research into adults with ADHD.

"Adult symptoms of ADHD also tend to be far more subtle than childhood symptoms," the NHS explains.

Some specialists have suggested the following as a list of symptoms associated with ADHD in adults:

- carelessness and lack of attention to detail 

- continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones 

- poor organisational skills 

- inability to focus or prioritise 

- continually losing or misplacing things 

- forgetfulness 

- restlessness and edginess 

- difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn 

- blurting out responses and often interrupting others 

- mood swings, irritability and a quick temper 

- inability to deal with stress 

- extreme impatience 

- taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously.

According to McLaren other symptoms include problems with impulsivity, forgetfulness and distractibility.  

"These symptoms can lead to being accident prone," he adds. "Problems with listening in meetings can impair performance at work. 

"The attentional problems can also have an impact on close relationships, with partners feeling that they are not listened to - or attended to - in conversations."

Read more: Three reasons your to-do list is not getting done if you have ADHD

The symptoms of adult ADHD are similar to that in children but more difficult to define. (Getty Images)
The symptoms of adult ADHD are similar to that in children but more difficult to define. (Getty Images)

Why does adult ADHD often go undiagnosed?

“Adult ADHD often goes undiagnosed and unrecognised," explains Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell. 

"Like all conditions, it is on a spectrum of seriousness and there are varying degrees of it. There will have been signs in childhood that may well have got missed and it has only been widely recognised as a condition relatively recently."

Dr Campbell says doctors now see many people whose ADHD was not picked up when they were younger. 

"In adulthood, ADHD can manifest itself as having difficulty concentrating, and being unable to sustain concentration; your mind wanders. 

"You may also have difficulty finishing a job, struggle with organisation and management responsibilities. You might have difficulties in prioritising tasks or you might want to avoid something you know you will find difficult because of ADHD."

This can lead to depression, anxiety and addiction. 

"Sometimes it is only in treating those conditions – the depression for example - that the ADHD is picked up," explains Dr Campbell. 

"Due to pressures on the health service, a nationwide shortage in psychologists and psychiatrists, and delays in accessing treatment, it can be very difficult to get an assessment for ADHD.”

Dr McLaren says many adults only realise they have attentional problems when their children are diagnosed, and they recognise their children’s inattentive behaviour in themselves.  

"They then come for assessment," he says. "When they were at school, ADHD was generally unrecognised."

Interestingly, according to Royal College of Psychiatrists in children, boys are more commonly diagnosed than girls, whereas in adults, there are more equal numbers of men and women seen in clinics.

"Women often struggle to get a diagnosis more than men, so they often end up being diagnosed later on in life," explains Ray Sadoun, a mental health and addiction recovery specialist at OK Rehab.

"The medical industry in general focuses on male symptoms when raising awareness of disorders, and this is exactly what has happened with ADHD. 

"Boys with ADHD tend to be more hyperactive and aggressive, whereas girls are very talkative and have more difficulties with processing their emotions. 

"It is vital that we look at both male and female symptoms when it comes to ADHD to increase the diagnosis rate of women."

How is ADHD treated?

Although there's no cure for ADHD, the NHS says it can be managed with advice, support and appropriate educational support, alongside medicine, if necessary.

Dr Dimitrios Paschos, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health recommends getting a clear diagnosis before seeking treatment. 

"Unfortunately an incorrect diagnosis of ADHD can be made if a thorough assessment has not taken place. Missing a case of ADHD or diagnosing it when it is not present can be equally damaging," he explains. 

"If you’re worried about yourself or your child, talk to your GP and ask for an evaluation. Medication may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms and there are also many other ways to reduce the impact of ADHD symptoms that include talking therapies and lifestyle management. 

Dr Paschos adds that there are also new treatments on then horizon and new technologies can help more people with ADHD achieve their full potential.

Watch: Parents of children with ADHD 'can benefit from mindfulness training'

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