Adult ADHD (A complete guide)

Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD stands for adult attention deficit  hyperactivity disorder.

It is a psychological condition that comprises a group of symptoms, including but not limited to difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Although ADHD can affect people of all ages [including children and teens], adults with ADHD are more likely to have unhealthy balances in their lives, whether it’s in relationships, work or with family members.

Additionally, adult ADHD can have a negative impact on motivation, self-esteem and other facets of emotional well being.

About Adult ADHD

Even though we are discussing adult ADHD in this article, this condition can appear in early childhood and can continue on into adulthood.

Warning signs appear in initial childhood and continue into maturity.

In some instances,  ADHD is not formally diagnosed until the individual is an adult. Oftentimes, the signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults are not as prominent as they are in children.

While signs of hyperactivity generally decline in adults, several still struggle with restlessness and a difficulty with paying attention to what is happening around them.

Adult ADHD is important to recognize, diagnose and treat as early as it is caught, although there’s a likelihood that this condition can be misdiagnosed.

A misdiagnosis that leads to a later discovery of adult ADHD can put someone who has another psychological condition at risk for not receiving the proper treatment. 

If you have ADHD as an adult then there are various online forums which could help you by providing community guidance from other people who suffer from ADHD.

One of these forums is the ADHD Reddit forum.

Diagnosing Adult ADHD

Signs and symptoms of adult ADHD can be very difficult to recognize at first.

However, it is very easy to spot these traits when someone is a young child.

Most signs of ADHD occur before someone is 12 years old and linger on until they grow up. While no single test can confirm an ADHD diagnosis, there are several methods used in order to detect ADHD as accurately as possible.

Some of the testing procedures may include the following: 

  1. Neurological exam or examination by a medical provider in order to rule out other causes for symptoms that are surfacing.  
  2. Gathering data regarding your family history, individual medical history, any current or past medical issues and any other information that might prove helpful in diagnosing you with ADHD. 
  3. ADHD rating scales or mental tests to support, collect and assess information about your signs and symptoms.

The existence of ADHD is under debate these days as many believe it doesn’t exist.

Adult ADHD (A complete guide)
Adult ADHD (A complete guide)

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 5 % of young people and about half of that population will first start to show signs of ADHD as adults.

Additionally, the CDC suggests that the incidence of ADHD is a lot higher in areas with higher populations of  minority groups.

In addition, many adults who do have ADHD have never been formally identified as having ADHD.

Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD can cause several neurological and physical side effects that can put a strain not only on their relationships but also in their everyday lives.

It is important to know what the signs are of adult ADHD so that it can be properly treated as early as possible. 

In the section below, we will describe in further detail some of the symptoms that often accompany ADHD.

No two people will have the same symptoms and it’s important to remember that each person’s experience with ADHD is different. 

MAIN SYMPTOMS OF ADULT ADHD

1. Absence of focus

The most common sign of adult ADHD is an inability to focus on paying attention to anything, aside from worrying about something.

Individuals with adult ADHD are often very unfocused, cannot pay attention to others when they’re having a conversation, often miss the small details in a conversation and cannot follow through on finishing any tasks they start or plans they make.

This is the most tell tale sign of ADHD and one that should be looked at seriously.

2. Hyper focus

While people with ADHD can be very distractible, adults with ADHD may also experience something often known as hyper focus.

A person with ADHD can become so absorbed in whatever they are doing that they are completely unaware of everything else going on around them.

This sort of focus makes it easier for a person with ADHD to completely lose track of time and overlook your surroundings, the people you’re with, and your environment. 

3. Ineffectiveness

Even though everyone experiences some level of disorganization at some point in their lives, someone with ADHD often has a more frantic life on a very consistent basis.

This can make it extremely problematic to keep everything in order.

This also makes someone with ADHD a lot more susceptible to losing things, keeping track of pieces of information and remembering dates and events. 

4. Time management issues

Issues with time management go hand in hand with an adult ADHD diagnosis.

In general, adults with ADHD have a very difficult time managing their time.

Adults with ADHD often procrastinate at work, on assignments and show up late.

Additionally, adults with ADHD may overlook projects or tasks that they consider dull or uninteresting.

These individuals often focus intensely on events that have happened in the past or that could happen in the future. 

5. Forgetfulness

While it’s part of human nature to forget things, individuals with ADHD are a lot more likely to forget things in their everyday lives.

This can consist of regularly forgetting where you have placed your keys, what day of the week it is, what important event is happening on a certain day and what time you need to meet someone at a certain place.

Forgetfulness, if it happens occasionally, can be merely irritating and insignificant.

However, forgetfulness can also be extremely detrimental to someone’s career, livelihood and relationship because it is often conflated with ineptitude and apathy. 

6. Emotional Regulation

Life with ADHD can appear chaotic, as though your feelings are constantly changing and never in control.

ADHD may cause you to feel tired and try looking for sources of excitement or fun on a whim. Small inconveniences may seem like unbearable feats when you are battling an ADHD diagnosis.

If a person with ADHD cannot regulate their emotions, then they will have a lot of difficulty in their personal and professional lives going forward. 

7. Harm to Self Image

Adults with ADHD are frequently hypercritical of themselves, which can lead to lower self-confidence and self-esteem.

This is largely due to their inability to focus as well as others who do not suffer from ADHD.

This distortion in how someone perceives themselves may lead them to view their problems as individual failures or signs of underachievement.

This hypercritical nature may cause someone to struggle with their self esteem for the majority of their lives. 

8. Lack of Motivation

While you might be willing to take on new tasks, battling ADHD might mean that you are less motivated or interested to start or complete your projects.

This is a common problem observed in children with ADHD who cannot concentrate on their homework.

This same problem can be observed in adults with ADHD in the workplace.

In conjunction with poor organizational skills, a lack of motivation in an adult with ADHD will have a lot of difficulty completing a plan because they cannot pay attention to the task at hand for a long period of time.

9. Restlessness and Worry

As an adult with ADHD, you may sense like your mind won’t stop running. Your desire to keep moving and keep doing things can end up hurting you in moments when it’s best to slow down and rest.

This leads to a sense of restlessness, which further provokes feelings of anxiety and stress.

Anxiety is a very common symptom among adults with ADHD as the mind tends to replay anxiety-inducing events from someone’s past. 

10. Tiredness

Though this may sound like a given, exhaustion is often a problem for adults who suffer from ADHD.

There are thought to be many factors that contribute to this. The source of exhaustion may be hyperactivity or poor sleep patterns that accompany an ADHD diagnosis.

This could also be due to the continued effort it takes adults with ADHD to continue completing tasks at work or at school.

Another source of exhaustion could be a side effect of ADHD medications.

Regardless of the source, tiredness makes it even more difficult for someone with ADHD to function in society. 

11. Health complications

Impulsivity, a lack of attention, a lack of emotional regulation and inefficiency can lead a person with ADHD to neglect their own health.

This is often manifested in poor dietary choices, ignoring exercise, or missing doses of important medication.

If an adult ADHD does not take care of their physical and mental health, then the bad effects of ADHD can make other health problems a lot worse. 

12. Relationship problems

An adult with ADHD can often have trouble with their relationships, whether they’re romantic, platonic, familial or spiritual in nature.

Adults with ADHD can often talk over other people in a group conversation, act careless, and be easily bored.

Although it may not be intentional, the person with ADHD sends signals to these people that they are unresponsive or careless as a friend or family member. 

13. Substance misuse

Although substance misuse is not a given in everyone with an ADHD diagnosis, adults diagnosed with ADHD are more likely than others to abuse or misuse alcohol or drugs.

At the moment, there is no clear answer on the link between substance misuse and ADHD.

However, some researchers believe that people with ADHD will use substances to self medicate.

This may allow adults suffering from ADHD to feel like they’re freed from their troubling symptoms for a brief period in time.

Misusing these substances can often lead to heightened levels of anxiety, trouble sleeping and poor emotional well-being. 

Treatment

Standard treatments for adults with ADHD include medicine, therapy, skills training and other forms of counseling.

A combination of these methods is usually the most effective way to help adults with ADHD manage their symptoms.

Although there is no single cure for ADHD, these methods can help ensure that your symptoms help improve your quality of life. 

There are several medications used for the treatment of ADHD.

Before starting or stopping any medications, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider on how to proceed.

Certain drugs, such as products that comprise methylphenidate or amphetamine, are characteristically the most common medicines for ADHD, but other medications may be used as well.

Though these medicines are very effective in treating ADHD, one might get dependent on them. For example, Amphetamine Dependence.

Stimulants seem to boost mood and maintain the equilibrium of neurotransmitters in the brain. 

Other medications commonly used to help treat symptoms of ADHD are non-stimulants called atomoxetine and antidepressants such as bupropion.

These two medications are historically not as effective as stimulants, according to research, but they are a viable treatment option if you are medically unable to take stimulants due to their side effects.

However you decide to proceed with treating adult ADHD, it’s important to remember that working with a clinician will help you determine what is best for you. 

 Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Adult ADHD:

Is ADHD hereditary?

ADHD may run in families.

Parents and siblings with ADHD make someone more likely to develop ADHD as a child or as an adult.

However, just because you are genetically predisposed to a condition, you are not guaranteed to develop it.

One important thing to do is be mindful of some of the warning signs of ADHD so that, if needed, you can recognize it and seek treatment for it as early as possible. 

When can I stop taking my ADHD medication?

This is a conversation that’s best had with your healthcare provider.

There is no one right time to stop taking your medication and one that should be carefully discussed with your clinical team.

It’s best to review this with a clinician in order to minimize any withdrawal effects that may happen.

What causes ADHD?

Scientists have lots of research to do in order to discover what causes adult ADHD.

Generally speaking, there is no known source of what can cause adult ADHD to develop.

However, thanks to a variety of treatment options, it is possible to manage your symptoms without knowing exactly what is causing them to appea

Interested in Learning More? Check Out These Books on Adult ADHD:

  • ADHD: Evidence-Based Approach to Coping with ADHD With or Without Drugs
  • When an Adult You Love Has ADHD: Professional Advice for Parents, Partners, and Siblings
  • Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder

References

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.