ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been on the rise in the past few years. And typically, it’s seen as a condition that affects children. That’s understandable. Since 1991, diagnosis rates for kids in America have gone up 42%.
But ADHD doesn’t just affect kids. Adult ADHD is also on the rise. It’s estimated that about 4% of U.S. adults have ADHD. And for some reason, that number is much higher in people who also have fibromyalgia. So just what is adult ADHD? What’s the connection between ADHD and Fibromyalgia? And what can you do to treat it?
What Is Adult ADHD?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition marked by a few symptoms. People who suffer from the condition tend to have trouble paying attention to tasks for long periods of time, thus the “attention-deficit.” In addition, they tend to have an abundance of energy, or “hyperactivity,’ often at inappropriate times.
As a result, people with the condition sometimes have trouble navigating social interactions, school, or, in the case of adults, work.
Adult ADHD is simply ADHD that affects adults or is diagnosed when the patient is an adult. Typically, it’s common for children who are diagnosed with ADHD to carry the condition into adulthood.
We don’t know what causes ADHD, but it seems to have a genetic component. There also seems to be an issue with the way the brain forms connections which may contribute to the disorder. Research has demonstrated that the brains of people with ADHD are fundamentally different than those of other people. There seem to be changes in the pathways between nerves and chemical balances in the brain.
Future research may help us understand how the condition works exactly. But we do know that the same chemical and neural pathway changes do seem to have a link to fibromyalgia.
ADHD And Fibromyalgia
A recent study tested 123 people with fibromyalgia for ADHD. The testing found that 44.72% of the patients tested positive. This is a significantly higher proportion than in the general population, which implies that there may be a link between the conditions.
But what exactly is that link? Well, that’s where things get a little tricky. All the study demonstrates for sure is that there is a high percentage of “co-occurrence” between the two conditions. And there are a number of possible explanations for this.
It could be that there’s something about living with fibromyalgia, stress perhaps or chronic pain, that makes people more likely to develop ADHD. Or people whose brains are naturally predisposed to developing ADHD may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
This scenario may be more likely. There’s evidence that fibromyalgia is rooted in the central nervous system. It seems to have something to do with the chemical balances in the brain itself, just as ADHD does.
In addition, the study concluded that having ADHD may make the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. And of course, that means that you need to find a way to manage it.
How Can You Manage It?
If you have fibromyalgia, it’s a good idea to get screened for adult ADHD. The most obvious symptoms of ADHD like trouble focusing are also symptoms of fibromyalgia. That may make it difficult to tell if you have the condition on your own. Meet with a qualified doctor who can test you to be sure.
It’s particularly important to be sure because treating your ADHD may actually help with the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms. There’s evidence that the common medications used to treat ADHD can actually improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
According to another study, people with fibromyalgia and ADHD who were treated with ADHD medications- typically stimulants like Adderall, reported a number of benefits. First, the medications helped control the symptoms of ADHD like an inability to focus and impulsivity. That’s to be expected, of course, since the medications were designed to treat these symptoms.
What was more surprising is that these patients reported that they experienced less pain and fatigue as well. These medications may work for the same reason that anti-depressants work. They help balance the chemical balances in the brain that contribute to the condition. And the stimulants used to treat ADHD may help balance out the fatigue of fibromyalgia.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about fibromyalgia, including what the link to ADHD might be. But the evidence that people with the condition should at least get screened is fairly compelling.
So what do you think? Have you been screened for adult ADHD? Do the treatments help your fibromyalgia symptoms? Let us know in the comments.