Mention ADHD and most of us think of hyperactive children. However, did you know that adults can also have this condition? And that it’s possible to only know you have it later on in your life?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is best described as a mental health condition that could lead to impulsive behaviour and unusual levels of hyperactivity. People with ADHD experience frequent change in energy levels and could have trouble focussing on tasks or sitting still for long periods of time. As a result, it often affects their work and personal lives.
Moonlake Lee (above) was chronically late for appointments and described her life as “chaotic” as she often rushed from one place to another, apologising profusely to whoever she had kept waiting. She admits she was always trying to squeeze in an extra errand or was too engrossed in an activity and lost track of the time. She was also not very good at estimating how long it would take to do something or travel from one place to another.
“My mind was also constantly firing up ideas and sometimes people had trouble keeping up with my conversations as I could jump from one topic to another, and then go back to the start again,” she shares.
Moonlake was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50. Her daughter had been diagnosed with the condition so she started reading up about it, to learn how she could better support her. She found research that showed a genetic link for ADHD and recognised some of the symptoms in her life.
“I did not feel the urgent need to get a diagnosis until about a year later when I was feeling overwhelmed with life,” she explains.
In the first year after her diagnosis, Moonlake was prescribed ADHD medication by a psychiatrist but she didn’t take it consistently and, therefore, didn’t see a major difference in her focus. She didn’t go for therapy either. She later realised she had to be a good role model for her daughter. She founded an organisation, Unlocking ADHD, and knew it was important for her to walk the talk.
“I am now taking my medication on a regular basis and I’m also learning about executive functioning as a way to manage my life better, as well as support my daughter. It really is a journey of discovery,” she says.
Moonlake is a multi-hyphenate who has had a career in the spheres of entertainment, law, healthcare, technology and real estate. She founded Unlocking ADHD for three reasons — to give hope to the ADHD community that it is possible to thrive with ADHD; to bridge the gap in information and resources about ADHD; and to equalise access to management of ADHD.
“The mission of Unlocking ADHD is to Empower ADHDers and their families to live life to the fullest,” she says.
“We are a non-profit organisation applying to be a charity. As a primarily volunteer-driven ground-up group, we are working hard to develop tools to equip the ADHD community in Singapore to manage life better.”
“Unlocking ADHD is embarking on a fundraising drive to help us scale up our capability in terms of manpower and skills in order to meet the pressing needs of the community,” she adds.
Acceptance And Liberation
Moonlake reveals that the biggest change in her life is acceptance of how she is wired. She says that many ADHDers, including herself, go through life feeling like they are not good enough and they must work harder to match the performance of others.
“With acceptance comes a sense of liberation. It has given me more confidence in who I am as a person,” she says.
She recommends anyone diagnosed with ADHD to find out about ADHD and join a support group. They can then cope better with life by:
And, if your loved ones are diagnosed with the condition, you can support them by finding out all you can about ADHD and joining an ADHD group, or getting them to join a group.
The experts' advice on ADHD treatment
Dr Tay Kai Hong, medical director and psychiatrist at Private Space Medical, says that medications are proven to be safe and effective for ADHD, when used in conjunction with lifestyle strategies.
While medication is not a cure for ADHD, it’s a tool to manage symptoms. Symptoms of ADHD sometimes improve over time as people learn the skills and put systems in place to manage the symptoms.
“Methylphenidate is the first-choice medication in Singapore and is a prescription-only medication available at most mental health clinics and restructured hospitals,” he says.
Side effects of this medication include suppression of appetite, weight loss, increased jitteriness, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. There are different formulation of the medication. And they vary in terms of their duration of action, which can last from four hours to 12 hours.
Dr. Goh Kah Hong, senior consultant psychiatrist at Famille Psychiatry Associates, says that while ADHD medications help with the ADHD symptoms, they are not curative. And, depending on the choice of medication, some can even be effective within 30 minutes.
“There are two main groups of medications in the market — stimulants vs non-stimulants,” he explains.
“Non stimulant medications are used when stimulants are not working or contraindicated for any reason. They take longer to work, generally speaking around one month before the desired effects set in,” he adds.
According to Dr Goh, ADHD treatments aren’t claimable from Medisave. You might have an insurance policy that could cover it, though. The cost of treatment varies depending on whether it’s a government hospital or private clinic. It also depends on the complexity of the case.
“ADHD is very treatable with effective and safe medical treatment,” Dr Goh reveals.
He also suggests adding structure to your life, by cultivating habits that help you with being organised and methodical in your daily life. Rhythmic exercises such as dancing, swimming running also help.
Dr Tay has the following tips on how adults with ADHD can cope: