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Yu Kai-leung, the 34-year-old founder of ADDult Value Association (ADDultValue) agrees. His association is aimed specifically at adult ADHD. “Adults [with ADHD] are different from children.” Yu says, “I feel like I wasted too much time. If things could start over again, and I could spot [my ADHD] earlier, then it would definitely be different.”

This is a wish shared by many adults with ADHD. Yu thinks the lack of social awareness is the key problem. Although media coverage on ADHD has increased in recent years, adult ADHD is still widely misunderstood.

ADHD symptoms are often interpreted as bad habits rather than expressions of an attention disorder. The lack of awareness extends to the medical sector, resulting in a lack of specific services for adults with ADHD. Without recognition from the government, many organisations fail to provide support to adult ADHD patients. To solve this problem, Yu says there is a need for more civic education.

Psychiatrist Wong Kai-cho agrees and says the lack of awareness of adult ADHD is partly caused by late diagnosis. The diagnosis is not straightforward, because it cannot be made by counting symptoms alone. Wong says even when a person possesses some symptoms, it is important to consider how long they have been present.

A device for the Test of Variables of Attention, commonly used to help diagnose ADHD
A device for the Test of Variables of Attention, commonly used to help diagnose ADHD

It is harder to diagnose an adult than a child and Wong says he sometimes has to ask the patient’s parents and classmates about childhood details to determine whether the symptoms are of ADHD. Then the patient needs to tick a symptom checklist and take a 21-minute neuropsychological test to measure their responses to stimuli.

After excluding the possibility of other conditions by completing a physical check-up, psychiatrists make a diagnosis by referring to the patient’s test result, self checklist and background information. The process requires both medical knowledge and diagnostic experience.

Despite these difficulties, diagnosis and treatment for ADHD can change the life of a patient. Forty-year-old Amanda Fok Choi-ling is a professional emcee. She was diagnosed with ADHD about six or seven years ago after suffering from emotional problems when she failed to meet the demands of completing her master’s degree.

Being an emcee requires a high level of attention and memorisation skills, which may seem like too much of a challenge for someone with ADHD. But for Fok, this is her field of hyper-focus and a platform for utilising her talents in communication.

Although Fok receives medical treatment, she says medication alone is not enough – it should go hand in hand with behavioural therapy as the latter teaches patients ways to better carry out different tasks and brings concrete changes to their daily lives.

Amanda Fok's work as an emcee makes full use of her speaking talents
Amanda Fok’s work as an emcee makes full use of her speaking talents

Fok says it is important for people with ADHD to discover what their talents are and choose jobs that are suitable for them. For her part, she chose a job requiring creativity instead of discipline, which suits her own character.

Referring to the discussion of ADHD in the book, Driven to Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, Fok says: “ADHD is just like nearsightedness. You surely cannot see things clearly without glasses if you are nearsighted, but if you have the right pair of glasses, things become clear.” Fok understands her talents and her limitations. She knows it is hard for people with ADHD to complete a long-term project by themselves. They need more systematic, well-organised people to help them execute the plans and ideas they have.

“It is not about who is better and who is not,” she says, “Just like Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. I am the Steve Jobs with ideas but need Tim Cook to make it happen. It is how the world finds balance.”

Edited by Joey Kwan & Achlys Xi