Adult ADD in the UK
June 5, 2005 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Adult ADD in the UK. Is it worth getting diagnosed? What is the best route to getting a diagnosis and does medication actually help?

My partner has adult ADD and when he described the symptoms I recognised myself as if I was looking in a mirror. I've browsed the web quite a lot and tried various checklist which all seem to indicate that I could have it. My partner tried medication but rejected it because it affected his writing. I also work in a creative job, where my odd way of working seems to benefit me quite a lot - though some of the bureaucratic aspects stress me beyond all reason. I'm wondering whether it's worth seeing whether I have ADD or not. I've looked around various sites but they all point to going to your GP and I don't think mine would take it seriously. I wondered what other people's experiences were?
posted by Flitcraft to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Medications work very well. So well, they work for everyone, independent of an ADD diagnosis. If you're having trouble you should get it checked out. I would actually suggest that you should see your GP. The diagnosis is pretty non-specific and a skeptical doc might be a better choice than someone who diagnoses it frequently. At least in the US, where it's a pretty easy diagnosis to come by (which is not to say that people don't suffer from it), I think a skeptical doc is important.
posted by OmieWise at 12:40 PM on June 5, 2005

One thing to look into is the quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG). The qEEG is a brain-wave test that has been refined to the point that it can help in diagnosing ADD, with 90% accuracy (Hallowell, E.M. & Ratey, J J. (2005) Delivered from distraction: getting the most out of life with attention deficit disorder. New York: Random House, p. 123). The qEEG is an effective tool because it provides doctors with evidence of organic differences in the brains of ADD patients.

Hallowell and Ratey (both medical doctors specializing in ADD), also report that the qEEG shows that “people with ADD tend to show a pattern of underarousal in areas in the cortex. . .This so-called cortical hypoarousal is identified by the presence of more slow waves, or so-called theta waves, over fast waves, or so-called beta waves. By measuring the ratio of fast waves to the slow waves, the test can help diagnose ADD (Hallowell & Ratey, 2005, p. 123).

There have been studies published in peer-reviewed journals concerning the qEEG. In one study twenty-three males age nine to 11 years with ADD and 23 matched controls served as participants. The qEEG results showed differences in the two groups brain activities while various skills tests were administered (Swartwood, J.N., Swartwood, M.O., Lubar, J.F., Timmermann, D.L., (2003). EEG differences in adhd-combined type during baseline and cognitive tasks. Pediatric Neurology, 28(3), 199-204 ).

Obviously you & your partner are not between the ages of 9-11. I just happened to have this study available right now and thought it worthwhile to quote. If you are interested in other studies concerning adults I could email them to you.
posted by mlis at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

A skeptical doctor is the last thing I'd suggest, given how many doctors (at least in the US) are nervous about prescribing stimulants. Getting a wrong negative diagnosis could make it look like you're "doctor shopping" to get drugs if later on you decide you want a second opinion. I would suggest seeing a psychiatrist if that's possible.

Medication definitely works, and has never negatively affected my creative process. I sought treatment only after I was about to fail out of grad school because I couldn't concentrate. It has improved my quality of life immensely. If it's not hugely affecting your life, though, you may just consider living with it. I'm not sure the medication would make much of a difference if I were doing something that didn't require such protracted concentration.
posted by transona5 at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2005

Do they have "doctor shopping" laws in the UK? I would suspect not. It seems like it's just another manifestation of America's structural insanity.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on June 5, 2005

There are a few reasons you might want an actual diagnosis. These are all based on my life in the US with a partner with ADD so I'm not sure what it's like in the UK. In short, if it's not getting in the way of your life and work, for now, it doesn't matter too much if you have "official" ADD, if you are happy the way you are. However, if you shift jobs it might matter.

I'm not a doctor or a lawyer. However, I believe that ADD is a "qualifying disability" here, meaning that your boss would have to make reasonable accomodations for it and not just fire you because you were spacey, or flakey or whatever. There was a long poignant article in the New York Times magazine a while ago discussing one woman who was in danger of getting fired from her job as a result of being a poor performer. Since she had diagnosed ADD, they had to make a good faith effort to try to work with her. I do not know how this works in the UK.

If you decided to go back to school and had to take standardized tests, you can get accomodations for taking these if you have diagnosed ADD -- more time, different setting etc. Again, this is in the US.

And, of course, you might find that you had ADD, you could take medicine for it, and weird little nagging problems in your life would suddenly go away. My partner is diagnosed and chooses to not take medication. Some things are terribly hard and some things are wonderful, but I feel like we have an easier time working through ADD-related troubles knowing which things are likely part of the ADD world and need to be dealt with tactically in one way and which things are just regular boy/girl issues and need to be dealt with in another way. I think understanding ADD is useful for working out problems related to it, but having a diagnosis isn't going to change that part of it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 PM on June 5, 2005

Be aware! Some things about ADD are very positive. I've written about it on Mefi before. It is considered by some experts to be a misnomer to call this a "disorder", they say it is DIFFERENT.

Some very successful people have ADD, and used it to their advantage. It is said so of Thomas Edison, to name a favorite of mine. One author refers to ADD folks as "Hunters, in a farmer's world". That writer is Thomas Hartmann. Check his stuff out, it helped me.

Some people find medication wonderful. Some don't like what it does. I suspect it depends on how well adjusted you are to being yourself. Some of the books are there to help you deal with the difficulties and recognize the strengths (and there are strengths!).

It may be that the medication helps deal with the boring crap. Perhaps the successful, unmedicated, are people who found stuff that isn't so boring. This makes sense in my experience. When I was in showbiz, there was no problem. Also, I never worked so hard in my life.
posted by Goofyy at 12:52 AM on June 6, 2005

The impression I get is that very few doctors in the UK take it at all seriously in adults and that you can easily run into medical professionals who are not sceptical but downright unsympathetic and ill-informed - judging by some reports I've read. It's interesting that no-one else from the UK seems to have commented. I would like to find out whether I have it - partly for job reasons, partly to see if anything could help with my disorganised living habits, so I found these answers interesting. The problem is though, that in the UK, the GP is the gatekeeper and I don't know where to find one who I can be assured is competent on this and who isn't just going to dismiss it out of hand.
posted by Flitcraft at 12:06 PM on June 7, 2005

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