Q&A: Is It Worth Seeking an ADHD Diagnosis After 50?
ADHD doesn’t disappear with age. Yet many older adults with symptoms of ADHD are misdiagnosed and go without proper treatment and care. In this expert Q&A, learn why a thorough evaluation is critical and what lifestyle changes may help most.
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5 Comments: Q&A: Is It Worth Seeking an ADHD Diagnosis After 50?
@mcdonna: well written, very relatable for me. Thank you very much.
I was born in 1950, long before ADHD was recognized in daydreaming little girls. I have been struggling all these years to “get my act together.” I was bright but was told that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I earned a full scholarship to Stanford but then flunked out freshman year. I’ve accomplished a lot, including returning to Stanford twelve years later, but I also built three failed businesses, left good jobs, built my dream home and then had to sell it a year later as I could’t keep up with the mortgage, lost friends and time. I’ve been in therapy off and on since the mid-80s for depression. Despite working in high tech from 1983-1997 and earning up to a six-figure salary, today I have no savings. I cancelled all my credit cards ten years ago as I couldn’t trust myself with them. I feel like a failure.
The past five years it’s gotten worse. I’m a free-lance web developer and have lost clients and revenue due to my inability to be consistently accountable. I have gotten so far behind as to become completely stuck, paralyzed, unable to do anything but stare at my computer with a fog around my head. I spent years working with a productivity coach, worked with a psychologist using CBT, and got my antidepressant prescription changed, but nothing helped. Earlier this year I saw a psychiatrist for the first time to see if there is another medicine that could help with my depression. After several sessions, we weren’t getting anywhere. A couple of months ago, for the first time in my life, I told my therapist that I was giving up. I was exhausted and all my efforts had been in vain. I couldn’t see a path forward.
Less than a week later I was surfing YouTube, which offered me a video on how to figure out whether you should be assessed for ADHD. My image of ADHD was young boys who couldn’t sit still, and I’ve never seen myself as hyper, but I watched it anyway, and then started weeping. It was like listening to a biography of my life. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster since then, in wonderment, feeling as though I had never known who I really was. I’ve devoured information on ADHD causes, symptoms, and remedies. I reviewed teacher’s notes on old report cards and read my old journals and saw dozens of clues. I felt betrayed and angry with the professionals whom I went to for help these past years. How is it that YouTube had more insight than they did? As I pursued an assessment and met with my cardiologist for permission to try the meds, I was still afraid to hope that I can be helped by medication or coaching.
Last Sunday was my 71st birthday, and on Monday, November 1st, I met with the psychiatrist for a prescription. I started taking atomoxetine the next morning. It’s not instant like the stimulants, so we won’t know for another week or so whether it works, but I’ve been assured that we’ll try other options if this doesn’t do it. I’m still dysfunctional and broke, but at least I can see the possibility of a better future.
So the idea that diagnosis after age 50 might not be worth pursuing appalls me. I’ve fought this for 71 years; I’m exhausted. But I’m not dead yet. I want more than anything to have a chance to learn what it’s like to be able to focus and get things done. My dad lived into his 90s. Settling for as much as 20 more years of this struggle when there is help available is not in anyone’s best interest. My brothers need to be able to take care of themselves and their families, not me. My clients want me to be there for them. The government wants my tax revenue. And I need a life.
I’m rally struggling with this. I’ve tried to seek out ADD specialists but tell me I can’t be properly diagnosed by their criteria without lots of information about my childhood that no living sane person could contribute. I’ve tried meds off and on, sometimes make my axiety worse, just don’t know where to start or if it just doesn’t matter. I’d be happy just to know what my real limitations are even if they can’t be improved so I know what to avoid
Since being diagnosed at age 55, I’m no longer stupid I’m ADHD 🙂
I was diagnosed after 50 years old.
BEST thing I ever did.
A friend was telling me and my wife about her son getting a diagnonsis. I could relate to every thing, item by item.
So I did two online tests and scored 95%
But only 5% for the hyperactive part.