While attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often viewed as a childhood condition, many adults in the U.S. also face signs and symptoms. In fact, it’s estimated that about 4.4% of the total adult population between the ages of 18 and 44 currently struggles with ADHD. ¹
While researchers still aren’t sure what causes ADHD nor why it remains more prevalent in children, we do know that it can be a debilitating disorder which has complications in many of life’s responsibilities. With that said, it’s vital adults who do struggle with ADHD to address these symptoms as soon as possible.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about ADHD in adults. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
ADHD in Adults
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD can cause individuals to “have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be, or be overly active.” While it’s most common in children, ADHD can become a problem in adulthood. ²
What Causes ADHD in Adults?
Most commonly, children diagnosed with ADHD will usually develop into adults with similar signs and symptoms. Still, there are many cases where adults with ADHD were never diagnosed as a child. However, it’s unlikely for your to develop ADHD as an adult without experiencing signs and symptoms as a child. ³
Unfortunately, ADHD can go unrecognized in childhood. This is especially true for individuals whose behavior wasn’t concerning enough for a parent to contact a medical professional. For example, some children with ADHD are simply overlooked as a “dreamer, goof-off, slacker, troublemaker, or just a bad student.”
Researchers still don’t know exactly what causes ADHD, but believe it’s linked to a combination of genes, environment, and variations in the brain’s wiring. ⁴
Effects of ADHD on Adults
Many adults who struggle with ADHD don’t realize it until something detrimental has happened to them. For many, ADHD is simply overlooked as a lazy or irresponsible characteristic. ⁵
Adults with ADHD often struggle with the following:
- Financial and Work Problems – Adults with ADHD are prone to experiencing difficulties in both their career and financial stability. Symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult to keep a job, follow rules, meet deadlines, and stick to a strict routine. In turn, this can lead to one feeling underachieved and create financial problems, such as struggling to make bills, developing debt, or participating in impulsive spending. ⁶
- Physical and Mental Health Complications – Due to the symptoms of ADHD (see below), a number of health problems can appear. While these will vary from individual to individual, some common ones include anxiety, chronic stress and tension, compulsive eating, low self-esteem, and substance abuse. What makes these complications more difficult is the fact that many with ADHD struggle to meet doctor appointments or follow medical instructions.
- Relationship Difficulties – Just as with your physical and mental health, symptoms of ADHD can make relationships more difficult. Whether it’s your friends, family or significant other, those who care for you most may grow tired of consistent poor behaviors produced by ADHD. ⁷
The combination of these effects can leave a huge strain on an individuals life and leave them feeling:
- Loss of confidence
For these reasons, it’s vital you seek out professional treatment if you show any signs or symptoms of ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
As with children, ADHD provides a unique set of symptoms for each individual. However, adults with ADHD have a set of symptoms experience different from a child’s. ⁸
In order to identify whether or not you have ADHD, we suggest you take a look at our list of symptoms. This will allow you to pinpoint whether or not you struggle with the condition and are in need of professional help.
Symptoms are divided into the following categories:
Those who struggle with attention deficit often have problems with concentration and focus. They’ll most likely find themselves being easily distracted by the slightest sights or sounds and find it difficult to pivot attention to one task.
Common attention deficit symptoms in adults include:
- Daydreaming and/or “zoning out” without realizing it
- Difficulty completing a single task
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention (such as with reading or listen to others)
- Easily distracted (especially by activities that are low-priority)
- Growing bored easily
- Having many simultaneous thoughts
- Inability to listen (difficulty with memory)
- Overlooking details (leading to many errors or incompletions)
If you struggle with attention deficit, you most likely also struggle with hyperfocus. This is when you allow yourself to become absorbed in distractions, such as video games, television, or a book. In turn, you hyperfocus on low-priority activities in order to avoid responsibilities.
Disorganization and Forgetfulness
Adults with ADHD often have a difficult time staying organized and remembering important information. This can lead to a life that feels quite chaotic and often out of control.
Common symptoms of this category include:
- Always late
- Deficient organizational skills (i.e. at home, in the office, at the desk, in the car)
- Difficulty starting and finishing projects
- Forgetting appointments, commitments, deadlines
- Inability to stop procrastinating
- Losing or misplacing things (i.e. wallet, keys, phone, documents)
- Miscalculating the time it will take to complete a task
Due to the many symptoms an adult with ADHD faces, it’s likely they’ll also face a number of emotional difficulties as well. Some of the most common within adults include:
- Difficulty staying motivated
- Easily stressed out
- Irritability (most often, short and explosive temper)
- Low self-esteem
- Sense of insecurity and underachievement
- Sensitive to criticism
It’s common for people to correlate ADHD with an overabundance of energy. This set of symptoms is known as hyperactivity and can be prevalent in adults.
Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults includes:
- Difficulty remaining still (constantly fidgeting)
- Growing bored easily (always in need of excitement)
- Participating in more activities than one can handle
- Participating in risky activities (i.e. drug use, unprotected sexual activity)
- Restlessness (agitation, racing thoughts)
- Talking excessively
It should be noted that it’s less common for adults with ADHD to experience hyperactivity. For this reason, ADHD can also go misdiagnosed in adults.
Adults with ADHD often experience impulsive behavior which can make it difficult for them to both complete tasks and develop meaningful relationships. Common symptoms of impulsivity in adults includes:
- Difficulty conducting oneself in a socially appropriate way
- Frequently interrupting people and talking over them
- Inability to control oneself (i.e. addictive tendencies)
- Mentioning thoughts without thinking that are rude and/or inappropriate
- Reckless and spontaneous behavior with no regard for consequences
When to Look for Help
If you’ve identified a multitude of symptoms on our list, then it’s ideal you consult a mental health professional. Furthermore, if you’ve experienced these symptoms along with the negative effects ADHD can have on an adult (see above), then a treatment plan is almost necessary.
Under the right treatment, adults with ADHD have the ability to gain control over their lives again.
Treatment plans for ADHD will look differently for everyone. For some, a traditional routine of medication and therapies (i.e. behavioral coaching, individual therapy, self-help groups, etc.) are ideal.
However, others may find that taking matters into their own hands through alternative all-natural medication and habit changes to be more ideal. While this option requires a lot more responsibility, it’s attainable for those whose ADHD hasn’t completely consumed their lives.
Regardless of which option you choose, treatment is necessary in order to improve your condition. And, in order to figure out what’s the right treatment plan for you, it’s vital you talk to a mental health professional.
ADHD isn’t something that can easily be outgrown over night. It requires consistent treatment and a desire in the individual to improve.
If you currently struggle with ADHD, we guarantee you can overcome your symptoms with the right mindset. And, once you identify and treat symptoms, you can continue to go about your day-to-day life with less complications.
This isn’t an easy path to take. However, you should look at it through a positive light. Yes, ADHD makes you think and behave differently than those around you. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t use these differences to promote positive aspects of your character.
Still have questions concerning ADHD in adults?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further advice to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
² Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): What is ADHD?
³ Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School): Recognizing and managing ADHD in adults
⁴ National Human Genome Research Institute: ADHD Genetic Research Study
⁵ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Other Concerns and Conditions
⁶ Journal of abnormal child psychology (HHS Public Access): Financial Dependence of Young Adults with Childhood ADHD
⁷ Journal of Attention Disorders (SAGE Publications): The Impact of Persisting Hyperactivity on Social Relationships
⁸ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and Diagnosis