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ADHD at The Age of 20: Janet’s Story

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Have you ever noticed a difference within yourself? Whether it be your body or personality, these are changes you should keep a close eye on. Your body is talking to you and you need to listen. I know you have heard this advice countless times but Janet Adeola, a rising senior at Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing, is a primary example of actions speaking louder than words.


“I was talking to my mom about body pains that were unexplainable. I would wake up and my head would be foggy and tired.” The 20-year-old said. “I felt overwhelmed about not being able to do things other people can do.” She further elaborated on her frustration, “Other people could work for long periods, maybe a year but I could only work for a few months.” 


She continues, “It made me feel bad. I always wondered why I couldn’t focus. I thought it was normal for everyone until I realized others could focus even when they found the work boring. For other students there was an obstacle, a wall they could simply walk through. But for me, I couldn’t get around that same wall.”


After years of struggling to understand herself at the age of 20, Janet Adeola was diagnosed with ADHD, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Symptoms of ADHD include excessive movement, impulsive actions, and the inability to keep focus. ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder affecting children. But, people tend to forget adults have ADHD too and not all of them were diagnosed at a young age. 


Janet was suspicious of herself having ADHD before being diagnosed back in 2021. Since she was not officially diagnosed during those years she had to manage. Throughout high school, Janet was known for her intelligence as she was an honors student. She explains how it was possible to accomplish excellence while struggling mentally. “I was able to do it by doing mediocre work. I knew I had potential so I worked smarter not harder.” She reveals.  


During high school, Janet received large workloads of homework, an example being she was once assigned to read 100 pages of a book for her English class along with questions to answer for their discussion the next day. “Instead of reading 100 pages, I would read the questions then skim the book for answers. I would also go online to find a summary of the chapters of the book and then answer the questions based on that information.”  


Janet pointed out a few signs of her ADHD she’d noticed at the time. “I would do this either the day of or before the assignment was due. Procrastination was a huge issue for me. But, when it came to math homework I didn’t procrastinate. I just found English boring. Math made me feel smart. It was challenging and interesting compared to English.” she expresses. Some research suggests boredom plays a key role in three ADHD symptoms. Those three symptoms are hyperactivity, impulsive actions, and inattention.


In the United States, about 6.1 million children between the ages of 2 to 17 are reported to have been diagnosed with ADHD. Considering these facts it is very likely for ADHD to be caught at a younger age. When we look at reports from 2019 of adults with ADHD, percentages reached 0.96%. This is a huge difference if we look at decades prior when the percentages only reach 0.43%. 


Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life seems to be increasing as more adults are reaching out for help but, it is a drastic change in an already established individual's life. Janet Adeola does not shy away to discuss the emotional impact of her diagnosis. “I felt sad because I feel like if I knew this all along I probably could have got the help I needed and understood myself more.” She adds, “If I was diagnosed in elementary school I would have been able to figure out what routines help me grow, what routines wouldn’t have made me overwhelmed.”


Although she often thinks about the what-ifs Janet has now been able to adjust to this new chapter in her life. “At first I wondered where I should go from here. I could either get therapy or try medication. I decided to take both of these measures.” Behavioral therapy teaches individuals with ADHD skills and coping mechanisms that can help overwhelming tasks feel easier to attain. Specifically, adults with ADHD can learn how to refrain from their excessive thoughts.


Stimulants and non-stimulant are two medications used to help adults with ADHD. Stimulants are usually the first choice when deciding on which one to prescribe because it allows you to increase your focus. Non-stimulants, Atomoxetine, was the first to be approved to treat adults with ADHD. It is helpful to increase norepinephrine and only needs to be taken once a day. 


Alternatives to these two medications are Bupropion, Guanfacine, and Clonidine. Bupropion will increase the dopamine for people with ADHD and slightly increase norepinephrine too. Guanfacine and Clonidine can regulate your ability to pay attention and help with anxiety. Guanfacine will often be sold as Tenex or Intuniv and Clonidine is sold as Catapres. Doctors may prescribe these medications if ADHD is partnered with another mental disorder.


Of course, if we are going to talk about a behavioral disability, with a high percentage of those diagnosed being children, Ms. Adeola couldn’t help but give some advice to parents. “Parents should be the ones that encourage their children and make them feel valued. As parents, you should help your child grow and let your children know just because you struggle in an area does not mean you are incompetent.”


Janet has been through an emotional rollercoaster during this phase in her life. “Before learning I had ADHD I felt like I was a mistake because I was different. But now even though I know I’m different I’m aware other people have the condition. Every day I’m learning what works for me.” 


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