Psychological impact of an adult ADHD diagnosis

Young, Zoe (2017) Psychological impact of an adult ADHD diagnosis. DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The study aimed to explore the processes people go through when diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood from a psychological perspective. ADHD has recently been recognised as affecting adults. Limitations exist in the breadth and depth of qualitative research into the experiences of those receiving an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood. Existing research is largely descriptive, with a prominent focus on pharmacological treatment. As such, psychological processes have not been sufficiently explored. Without ADHD-specific models of adjustment, the literature on identity, cognitive adaptation and stigma is examined.

A qualitative methodology was employed taking a critical realist perspective. A purposive sample of twelve participants was recruited through adult mental health services. Each participant took part in one digitally recorded, semi-structured interview where experiences were explored. A mixed inductive-deductive thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews was conducted following the Braun and Clarke (2006) six-stage methodological process.

Three master themes were identified with subthemes: (1) Looking back: different, faulty; relief and regret; reframing; (2) Looking inwards (with acceptance); and (3) Looking outwards: labelling: disability, stigma and social comparisons. The study highlighted participants’ attempts to make sense of their past experiences considering the diagnosis, reflect on the effect the diagnosis had on their sense of self and identity and consider the positives and negatives of sharing their diagnosis. Participants also compared themselves with others and some reflected on ADHD being a shared experience within families.

The current research has highlighted the contradictory nature of the diagnosis; that an ADHD diagnosis was necessary to access support and acknowledge people’s experiences (and potentially attribute past behaviours and experiences to ADHD rather than personal failure) but there remains a struggle with the sense of self, the way people are viewed by others (e.g. feeling stigmatised) and the permanence of being or having ADHD forever. This highlights the importance of supporting people to understand their interpretation of the diagnosis and target intervention in the adjustment process. Pre- and post-diagnostic support and contact with others who have been through the process would be beneficial. The study also highlights the need for further anti-stigma campaigns.

A number of methodological limitations is discussed. Future research is necessary to explore models of attribution and interventions about the interpretation of the diagnosis and self-concept. The thesis ends with a personal reflection about my research journey and a discussion about diagnosis.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Tickle, Anna
Gillott, Alinda
Groom, Maddie
Keywords: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; Adults; Psychological processes
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 42486
Depositing User: YOUNG, Zoe
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2018 10:06

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