This report describes the findings from a study of how adults experience Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Qualitative interviews were carried out with 19 individuals to find out how the condition affected their lives. To date, there is a surprisingly small body of qualitative research on this issue internationally, and very little available from Ireland. Adults ranged from 18 to 53 years of age and were drawn from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. A majority were men and most of the sample identified predominantly with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which is marked by inattention, with a minority referring to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, characterised by inattention and hyperactivity. Although the participants in the study had a median age of 40, a majority had only received a diagnosis of ADHD in the past five years.
The researcher was asked by the Irish National Council on ADHD (INCADDS) to study adult ADHD with a particular focus on how adults with the condition experience education and health care services. This focus arose because, internationally, it is acknowledged that education, training, workplace and health care supports and treatment services need to be customised to meet the needs of people with ADHD. Recent international research studies show that issues such as not receiving a diagnosis in childhood, social stigma and lack of public understanding are other factors that make it more difficult for adults to adapt well to the condition. This report describes what we found in regard to health care, education and social perceptions. The findings are described using a person-centred approach, which puts diagnosis, education and health care in a wider context of how individuals experience ADHD and have been affected by the condition over their life course. Although common issues arose across the participants, there were also more fine-grained patterns attributable to age groups, gender, and social background. Ultimately, each person had a uniquely personal relationship with ADHD, seeing it variously as a impairment of cognitive skill or an aptitude for lateral thinking, as a condition to be adapted to or an integral part of personal identity, as a label that did not offer significant personal meaning or as a critical insight on the personal life narrative.