Scientific article
Open access

Practical considerations for the evaluation and management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults

Published inL'encéphale, vol. 46, no. 1, p. 30-40
Publication date2020

Attention deficit with or without hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most frequent neuropsychiatric disorders, and affects 2-4% of adults. In contrast with many European countries, the identification and management of adult ADHD remains underdeveloped in France, and a subject of controversy. This review provides a practical update on current knowledge about ADHD in adults for French-speaking professionals who have to detect or manage adult patients with ADHD. ADHD is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder in the recent update of the international diagnostic classification. While symptoms and impairment due to ADHD are frequently severe during childhood, they often evolve as children grow older, with frequent persistent disabilities in adulthood. In adulthood, the clinical presentation, as in childhood, involves the symptom triad of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. However, differences are noted: hyperactivity is more often internalized, symptoms of inattention may be masked by anxiety symptoms or obsessive-like compensation strategies. ADHD is often diagnosed during childhood, but it is not rare for the diagnosis to be made later. Failure to recognise symptoms resulting in misdiagnosis, or alternatively well-developed compensation factors could be two underlying reasons for the long delay until diagnosis. Other symptoms, such as emotional deregulation or executive function-related symptoms are also usually observed in adults. In addition, in adults, ADHD is often associated with other psychiatric disorders (in 80% of cases); this makes the diagnosis even more difficult. These disorders encompass a broad spectrum, from mood disorders (unipolar or bipolar), to anxiety disorders, and other neurodevelopmental disorders and personality disorders, especially borderline and antisocial personality disorder. Substance-use disorders are very common, either as a consequence of impulsivity and emotional dysregulation or as an attempt at self-treatment. Sleep disorders, especially restless leg syndrome and hypersomnolence, could share common pathophysiological mechanisms with ADHD. ADHD and comorbidity-related symptoms are responsible for serious functional impairment, in various domains, leading to academic, social, vocational, and familial consequences. The impact on other psychiatric disorders as an aggravating factor should also be considered. The considerable disability and the poorer quality of life among adults with ADHD warrant optimal evaluation and management. The diagnostic procedure for ADHD among adults should be systematic. Once the positive diagnosis is made, the evaluation enables characterisation of the levels of severity and impairment at individual level. A full examination should also assess medical conditions associated with ADHD, to provide personalized care. In recent years, a growing number of assessment tools have been translated and validated in French providing a wide range of structured interviews and standardized self-report questionnaires for the evaluation of core and associated ADHD symptoms, comorbidities and functional impairment. The treatment of ADHD in adults is multimodal, and aims to relieve the symptoms, limit the burden of the disease, and manage comorbidities. The most relevant and validated psychological approaches are psycho-education, cognitive-behavioural therapy and "third wave therapies" with a specific focus on emotional regulation. Cognitive remediation and neurofeedback are promising strategies still under evaluation. Medications, especially psychostimulants, are effective for alleviating ADHD symptoms with a large effect size. Their safety and tolerance are satisfactory, although their long-term clinical benefit is still under discussion. In France, methylphenidate is the only stimulant available for the treatment of ADHD. Unfortunately, there is no authorization for its use among adults except in continuation after adolescence. Hence the prescription, which is subject to the regulations on narcotics, is off-label in France. This article aims to provide practical considerations for the management of ADHD and associated disorders in adults, in this particular French context.

  • Adult ADHD
  • Comorbidity
  • Comorbidité
  • Diagnosis
  • Diagnostic
  • Methylphenidate
  • Méthylphénidate
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychothérapie
  • TDAH de l'adulte
  • Traitement
  • Treatment
Citation (ISO format)
WEIBEL, S et al. Practical considerations for the evaluation and management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults. In: L’encéphale, 2020, vol. 46, n° 1, p. 30–40. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2019.06.005
Main files (2)
Article (Accepted version)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0013-7006

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Creation10/29/2020 4:20:00 PM
First validation10/29/2020 4:20:00 PM
Update time03/16/2023 12:54:52 AM
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