A Banbridge-based mum-of-three wants to see more services in Northern Ireland for the increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with ADHD.

There were many adjectives used to describe Jocelyn Stewart when she was a teenager.

“Overbearing” was a particularly common one, “loud” another. She heard them all.

“I was always being told to stop talking. I was a bit in-your-face I suppose,” says the 28-year-old mum-of-three, who grew up in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, but who now lives in Banbridge.

“I found it difficult to make friends and maintain friendships. I was always in and out of various groups but had no one close to me really so I felt quite isolated in my teens.

“I just felt like a burden to most people. It was a very tough time for me and for my parents as well. I went off the rails a bit.”

After years of struggling to keep up in school, mood swings and even self-harm, Jocelyn finally got an answer. Not long before she turned 18, Jocelyn was diagnosed with Adult ADHD, more specifical­ly ADD as she did not show signs of hyperactivity.

“My big problem was lack of concentration especially if I wasn’t interested in something,” the former Deele College, Raphoe pupil says.

“When we were doing mathematics, for example, the information just wouldn’t go in, no matter how many times it was explained to me. I was in a class of 30 and we were all expected to learn the same way but I really struggled.

“I wasn’t really going to school. I’d come in one door and straight out the other. They didn’t want me there anyway because I was such a problem. My parents worried about me all the time but no one knew what was wrong with me.”

Her inability to focus combined with problems forming lasting friendships led to severe mood swings. Jocelyn began to suffer from depression and anger.

She knew she was a bit different to her peers and felt frustrated at the situation. Aged 15, she began to self-harm, keeping it a secret from her parents and four siblings initially.

With hindsight, she says it was a cry for help and that she never meant to do herself serious injury. Any attention was welcome, positive or negative.

Around the same time, Jocelyn decided to leave school. Both her parents were hairdressers and she inherited their skills. She signed up to study hairdressing at college and landed a part-time job. She continued to work in the industry until her first daughter was born.

But things didn’t improve. By now she was partying a lot and going consecutive nights without sleep. Concerned about her moods, she went to see a doctor in Derry, where she often stayed with her grandmother at weekends.

Jocelyn explained how she felt and a referral was made to the HSE, as her main place of residence was Donegal. For I0 months, Jocelyn was assessed, while her parents and teachers were interviewed to try and build up a picture.

Finally, Jocelyn received her Adult ADHD diagnosis. She was put on medication but felt it slowed her down. She also tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Life carried on.

She met her partner, had her family and moved from Belfast, where’d she been living, to Banbridge. But deep down, Jocelyn still felt things weren’t right, so went back to her GP for help.

jocelyn’s three gorgeous girls

“Having the girls made me think that I really needed to get my act together, especially as the eight-year-old is a mini version of me and I wanted to be in a good place for them,” she explains.

“Part of Adult ADHD is that you have big aspirations but you never feel that you’ve lived up to your potential. I felt in a rut all the time. I had trouble holding down jobs and I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life.

“But I did want to show my girls that it’s never too late to change things. I wanted to show them that there are no barriers.

“My big push was to go back to education, so that’s what I did.”

Jocelyn, who is now doing an Access course in Public Health so she can study Pharma­ceutical Science, is currently awaiting an appointment with a psychologist to try and take control of the symptoms which have reared their heads again in day-to-day life.

Unfortunately, there are no support services for Adult ADHD in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust area and with a mental health crisis crippling an already beleaguered NHS, Adult ADHD isn’t a top priority.

“As a child with ADHD, you’re under the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS),” says Jocelyn.

“Many people think that once you hit I7 or 18, you’re fine and you’re sort of released then into the wild. But ADHD doesn’t disappear. You carry it with you still.

“I was referred to a psych team here but they are prioritising people with severe depression and feeling suicidal, so I’m still in the system, waiting for an appointment.

“There are adults out there struggling with their symptoms of ADHD but because there’s so little support, they’re almost forgotten about and I think that needs to change.”

WHAT IS ADULT ADHD?

Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyper­ activity and impulsive behaviour.

Though it’s called adult ADHD, symptoms start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, ADHD is not recognised or diagnosed until the person is an adult. Adult ADHD symptoms may not be as clear as ADHD symptoms in children. In adults, hyperactivity may decrease, but struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.

Adult ADHD hit the headlines during Johnny Depp’s libel trial against News Group Newspapers in July 2020 when it was revealed the Hollywood actor had been diagnosed with the disorder. In recent months, a number of celebrities, including Loose Women panellists Nadia Sawalha and Denise Welch, have spoken out about getting a diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood.

Loose Women: Nadia Sawalha & Denise Welch are both diagnosed with ADHD

An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK have ADHD, with symptoms in adults including carelessness, lack of attention to detail and interrupting conversations. While men have traditionally been three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, the number of females receiving a diagnosis of Adult ADHD is on the rise due to increased awareness.

Treatment for adult ADHD is similar to treatment for childhood ADHD. Adult ADHD treatment includes medications, psychological counselling (psychotherapy) and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with ADHD.