Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do people say about attention difficulties?

A recent Dutch survey investigated the effects of attention difficulties in the general population. 1500 people with no diagnosis of ADHD completed checklists to ascertain their level of attention difficulties, and what impact these difficulties were having on their Quality of Life (QoL). The results will come as no surprise to people with ADHD, who have been dealing with this issue for all of their lives.

Results of the survey analysis found that attention problems are common in the general population, and that they are related to depressed mood, anxiety and sleep problems. Their effects on individuals' Quality of Life include problems with social functioning, emotional problems, and lack of vitality. These problems occurred in a third of the people surveyed. No reasons for these attention difficulties were explored, and it is possible that the participants, who were described as 'healthy' had some undiagnosed conditions causing their attentional difficulties. We know, for example, that ADHD is under-diagnosed. In addition, a group of participants were classified as 'elderly', which could account for their particular attention problems.

Another possibility exists - that participants could have symptoms at a sub-clinical level. In other words, they could have some attentional difficulties, but not enough to warrant any clinical diagnosis. Clearly, their symptoms were still troublesome. Dr John Ratey wrote a wonderful book some years ago, entitled Shadow Syndromes. It provided a compelling account of the impairments experienced by people who had mild versions of serious disorders.

The message is clear - people with attention difficulties, with or without a diagnosis - have symptoms interfering with their quality of life. They need to learn more about how those symptoms are affecting them, and devise strategies to deal with them.

Scholtissen-In de Braek et al, (2011)The identification of attention complaints in the general population and their effect on quality of life. Journal of Attention Disorders, 15 (1).

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