ADD: It's Not Just for Children Anymore Attention Deficit Disorder, Long Associated with Kids, Is Increasingly Being Diagnosed in Adults

Article excerpt

Al Heisley was smart. Everyone told him he was smart, but his

report cards were dismal.

All he wanted to be was a good guy, but he was labeled a bad

boy, an under-achiever, a discipline problem.

His mother turned to military school; Heisley turned to alcohol.

He remembers the first night he went drinking. He was 14. He

and a friend went into the Pennsylvania hills and got drunk on

hard apple cider. The alcohol brought up anger.

"Walking home, I punched every stop sign," Heisley remembers.

At 16, his father kicked him out of the house.

His life has been a roller-coaster ride of success and failure.

A natural salesman, Heisley built businesses from scratch and

then walked away. At times he earned six-figure salaries, but he

was always broke.

He ruined two marriages and alienated two children and countless

friends. Afraid to commit suicide, more than once he asked God

to kill him.

Now, at 47, Heisley has sobered up, and through personal growth

work and therapy is sorting out the confusion of his life.

Through therapy he has discovered that he has Attention Deficit

Hyperactivity Disorder, a physiologically based behavior

disorder. Heisley said the medication he started taking in

December has changed his life.

ADHD and its cousin Attention Deficit Disorder have long been

considered a children's disorder, but in the last decade they

have increasingly been diagnosed in adults.

Scientists are not entirely sure what causes the disorders, but

the problem seems to be focused in the frontal cortex of the

brain, the center of attention, inhibition and motor control.

About 80 percent of the cases are genetic.

Increasingly, it is being diagnosed in adults: College students

who have trouble studying, paying attention and doing things on

time. Employees who chronically blow up at the boss, or can't

do paperwork, or can't organize their time. Or, people with

problems with chronic unemployment, substance abuse, impulsive

behavior or managing money. Spouses in troubled relationships

because they can't express their thoughts and feelings.

Sound like you?

Odds are you may have what Boston psychiatrist Edward Hallowell,

author of Driven to Distraction, calls pseudo-ADD, or socially

induced ADD.

"The core symptoms of ADD -- restlessness, impulsivity,

distractability -- describe urban life," Hallowell said.

In a high-speed and high-tech environment, everyone is

over-stimulated and pulled in a thousand directions. Just

because you are distracted and restless it doesn't mean you have

ADD. Everyone experiences the symptoms of ADD from time to

time. In true ADD, they are a subtle but definite part of who

they are, Hallowell said.

"There needs to be a careful evaluation. You can't make this

diagnosis by reading a magazine," Hallowell said. "With a quick

glance at the symptoms, you'll diagnose the entire city of

Jacksonville."

Hallowell facetiously suggests the Aruba Test. Send the person

to Aruba. If within 24 hours they are relaxing on the beach and

enjoying themselves, they have pseudo-ADD. If they plug their

fax machine into a palm tree and set up shop, they have the real

thing.

Diagnosis involves a physical and psychological assessments,

observation, an extensive family history and interviews with

family, teachers and other adults.

The symptoms -- hyperactivity, impulsivity or inattention --

need to have been present since about 7 years of age, said John

Lucas, a neuro-psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. …