If you stop a random person on the street and ask them to describe to you what ADHD is, chances are they associate the mental health disorder that is associated with difficulty paying attention and hyperactivity with children. Although ADHD typically begins in early childhood, it can continue into adulthood.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adulthood can lead to problems with school or work performance, unstable relationships, poor self-esteem and other issues.
People with adult ADHD likely had the condition during childhood that went undiagnosed, either due to the fact that their symptoms were mild or due to lack of awareness about the condition. For an official diagnosis of ADHD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, signs of the disorder must be present prior to a person’s 12th year of age. If you did not have these symptoms as a child, some medical professionals may argue that your ADHD symptoms may be related to something else.
ADHD is characterized by difficulty paying attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The disorder interferes with the quality of life and day to day functioning.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are three different presentation types of ADHD:
- Predominantly inattentive
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
- Combined (both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms present)
Adults with ADHD who face problems with inattention but have little to no symptoms of hyperactivity are considered to have predominantly inattentive type ADHD. These people are often easily distracted, have difficulty paying attention to detail and have trouble staying organized or completing tasks. Because hyperactivity often decreases, adults who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity order fall under the predominantly inattentive category.
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
Some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they get older, but some continue to persist to the point of interfering with daily functioning. The predominant symptoms of ADHD in adults revolve around impulsiveness, difficulty paying attention and restlessness and these symptoms can range in severity.
Some adults with ADHD don’t even realize they have the condition. They may struggle with completing tasks on a daily basis and/or find it difficult to prioritize, organize, stay focused, meat deadlines and so on. Below are more specific symptoms of adult ADHD that are important to know about.
Lack of Focus
The most common sign of ADHD is a lack of focus. This symptom extends beyond a difficulty in paying attention – it means a person is easily distracted, overlooks details, has a hard time listening to others in a conversation and/or not completing projects or tasks.
On the other hand, some people with adult ADHD are easily distracted and have a condition called hyperfocus. Sometimes people with ADHD become so involved in or focused on something that they lose awareness of anything else going on around them. People with this ADHD symptom often struggle with losing track of time and ignoring people or events going on around them. This often contributes to relationship difficulties.
Difficulty Managing Time
Adults with ADHD may be disorganized and have a hard time using their time efficiently and effectively. They may regularly show up late for work or school, procrastinate important duties, ignore assignments and more. They may have a hard time staying focused on what is to come in the future or what has happened in the past – instead, the “now” is what they tend to focus more on.
Life for a person with ADHD can seem to be more chaotic and hectic than what is normal for others. It is often difficult for adults with ADHD to keep things in their right places, battling organizational skills necessary to keep track of tasks and prioritizing them.
A person with ADHD can display impulsivity in many different ways. They may often interrupt others during conversation or rush through tasks quickly. They may appear to be socially inappropriate and act with seemingly little consideration to consequences. One impulsive sign a person may exhibit with ADHD is if they are an impulsive shopper, often spending money on things that they can’t afford.
Everybody forgets things from time to time, but for a person with ADHD, experiencing forgetfulness is a regular part of life. Adults with ADHD may forget where their keys are regularly or important appointments.
Forgetfulness can be a minor nuisance in some cases but in others it can be serious. Forgetfulness can damage relationships and careers, often being mistaken for lack of intelligence or carelessness.
Lack of Motivation
Although people with ADHD are often thought to be trying to do everything at once, many people with the condition feel unmotivated. This in itself can make it difficult to stay focused on and complete tasks.
Living with the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies ADHD can be chaotic. People with the condition are often bored easily and go looking for something more exciting to do in the middle of a task or event. Little frustrations can also come about, accompanied by mood swings or depression. These emotions can further contribute to complications in life on a personal and professional level if left untreated.
It is not uncommon for adults with ADHD to be hypercritical of themselves, which can contribute to a poor self-image. This is usually linked in part to their inability to concentrate, in addition to other symptoms that may lead to difficulty with work, school and relationships.
The feeling like your motor will not shut off is common for adults with ADHD. The desire to keep pushing forward and doing things can bring forth feelings of frustration when you are unable to do something right away. This can lead to restlessness and anxiety.
Anxiety is a common adult ADHD symptom. Sufferers of the condition often replay events that worry them over and over again.
Substance Use Problems
Some adults with ADHD also have issues with substance abuse, including the use of tobacco, alcohol or other harmful drugs.
If think you or someone you care about has adult ADHD, it is important to pursue proper treatment. There are solutions available to overcome many of the difficulties of this condition. To learn more about treatment options, reach out to your doctor.