Untreated, ADHD can lead to a “life of chaos, both at home and at work”.

You are severely inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive. Then you may have a mental health condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It affects at least 10 million South Africans.

Psychiatrist Dr Renata Schoeman told HuffPost SA that in adults, ADHD manifests in three main ways:

  • Hyperactivity: characterised by physical restlessness, excess energy — which can manifest in workaholism or disruptive behaviour, the struggle to fall asleep, an “always-on-the-go” attitude
  • Impulsivity: characterised by rash decisions and acting on a whim, for instance buying things you don’t need; you like having your way, straight away, they find it extremely difficult to delay their actions
  • Emotional dysregulation: characterised by sulking, throwing tantrums — usually triggered by small things, low self-esteem, feelings of being a perpetual failure

The condition, however, has largely been misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed correctly. “In general, there is poor identification and treatment of common mental disorders especially at primary healthcare level in South Africa,” said Schoeman.

And until recently, ADHD was seen as a mental illness that people “miraculously outgrow.” Schoeman cautioned that although some children appear to outgrow their ADHD, they may just become better at managing the symptoms as they grow older.

In fact, not treating the condition can have adverse effects later in life. “Untreated ADHD can result in other disorders such as depression and anxiety disorder.” According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group(SADAG), if the disorder is untreated, it can “amount to a life of chaos, both at home and at work.”

This is why earlier this year, the first set of ADHD guidelines for adults were released in the South African Journal of Psychiatry. It was compiled by Schoeman and a second psychiatrist, Rykie Liebenberg. The guidelines include assessment procedures, drug treatment options and the treatment plan for long-term health.

“Comprehensive assessment is not possible during the average 15-minute general practitioner consultation. Schoeman advises that the diagnosis of adult ADHD and treatment initiation be made by a suitable psychiatrist.

With an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment, symptoms can be effectively managed, said Schoeman.

*The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), has a toll-free line dealing specifically with ADHD. You can contact them on 0800 55 44 33

Zongile Nhlapo Lifestyle Reporter for HuffPost SA