Young execs among those with attention disorder

PHOTO: Young execs among those with attention disorder

He is an entrepreneur in his 30s who was never quite able to sustain interest in whatever new business he started, leading inevitably to multiple failed ventures.

Frustrated by his behaviour, his wife took him to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that makes it hard for people to concentrate.

ADHD most often occurs in children, usually before they are seven years old, but medical experts told my paper that the condition can persist into adulthood for up to 60 per cent of young patients.

Greater awareness of the disorder has encouraged more adults to step forward for diagnosis and treatment, psychiatrists said.

Dr Marcus Tan, a consultant psychiatrist at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic, said the clinic now sees about five to 10 adult patients a week, compared with one to five a month two years ago. With celebrities - such as Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps - talking openly about coping with the disorder, the stigma of the condition has been reduced, said Dr Tan.

Dr Nelson Lee, a psychiatrist from The Psychological Wellness Centre, said he now sees as many adults as children suffering from the disorder.

Adult patients tend to suffer from mental restlessness, he said, unlike children who experience hyperactivity.

The patients are mostly in their 20s and 30s, and many of them are executives and professionals, ranging from accountants to lawyers, he added.

These patients are "relatively intelligent people" and coped with the disorder by putting in extra hours and effort, he said.

"But when they progress into senior roles, they find it hard to keep up," he added. In a recent survey sponsored by pharmaceutical company Janssen, 63 per cent of 83adult ADHD patients said they had difficulty concentrating and this affected their work performance.

The survey was conducted between April and August.

"Adults with ADHD frequently underachieve at work," said Dr Tan. "Their superiors and colleagues may label them as lazy or single them out for their seeming reluctance to put effort into their work."

Experts advise adults with the condition to seek treatment through behaviour modification and medication.

One patient, who wanted to be known only as Steve, was diagnosed with a form of ADHD a decade ago. He was afraid at first to seek help, but his life improved after he started seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication.

Now studying for a degree in project management, Steve, 41, said: "Once you get diagnosed and know you can get help, it is a life saver."

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