While attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is viewed as a childhood condition, it’s becoming increasingly common for adults to receive a diagnosis. In fact, about 2.5% of adults in the United States alone struggle with ADHD. ¹
This increase in diagnosis is largely due to awareness. Many discover others struggling with similar symptoms (such as through social media) and consult their doctors.
Still, even with a diagnosis, many don’t know why adult ADHD is so complicated. Beyond the difficulties in receiving a diagnosis, it can be difficult for an ADHD brain to properly adjust in modern-day society.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at the complications that can arise from adult ADHD. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Complication From Symptoms
The most damaging effects of ADHD come from the symptoms they induce. Naturally, there are many adults without a diagnosis. With that, these adults go about their lives struggling without answers.
While ADHD affects everyone differently, the most common symptoms among adults include: ²
- Easily distracted (by other tasks or thoughts)
- Inability to follow through with longer tasks
- Interrupting others (without a desire to)
- Restlessness (both inward and outward)
- Risky behavior (that provides immediate reward)
Symptoms are similar between adults and children. However, adults typically struggle with different types of symptoms more. For example, it’s been found that more adults will have persistent inattention.
On top of this, whether with or without a diagnosis, an adult with ADHD may also struggle with other types of symptoms, including:
- Accidental injury
- Lower quality of life
- Premature death
- Substance abuse problems
- Suicidal ideation
If you do have an ADHD diagnosis, chances are it’s costing you. One study reveals adults spend £18,000 a year on treatment and social support. ³ Not to mention, much of this support comes from the fact that adults with ADHD tend to also struggle with co-existing conditions. ⁴
Co-Existing Illness Complications
ADHD is already a struggle in and of itself. Never mind if you’re struggling with another condition.
Adults with ADHD are 3 times as likely to also receive a depression diagnosis. A condition that leads to many of the symptom complications mentioned above. ⁵ Furthermore, nearly half of the adults with ADHD are on the bipolar disorder spectrum. ⁶
On top of this, 70% of adults with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation. This makes it difficult for someone to control their emotional responses and has led to other disorders. For example, nearly all adults with ADHD have rejection-sensitive dysphoria. ⁷
On a lesser note, people with ADHD may also struggle with:
- Memory – For example, it may be difficult to remember your shopping list. ⁸
- Oppositional defiant disorder – Reacting poorly to orders or rules. ⁹
- Time Blindness – The inability to perceive time. ¹⁰
These co-existing conditions will not be used as a means of diagnosing ADHD. However, they can certainly make life more complicated for those already struggling with ADHD.
Some may wonder why adult ADHD is so complicated when it comes to diagnosis.
For an adult, it can be difficult to receive an ADHD diagnosis. This is namely due to the fact that an adult needs to show clear evidence that such symptoms have been prevalent since childhood. On top of this, it needs to be obvious these symptoms are inhibiting your day-to-day functions.
There are a few reasons why a psychologist may not initially diagnose your symptoms as ADHD. The most common is a lack of evidence from childhood.
Since ADHD at 6 years of age, it’s expected that adults with the condition already know they have it. ¹¹ Still, if symptoms are mild during childhood, they can worsen into adulthood – leading to a lack of diagnosis.
Furthermore, there’s been some concern over young adults abusing ADHD medication. ¹² Therefore, some psychiatrists may be hesitant to give a prescription for treatment if they aren’t certain of an adult’s diagnosis.
Still have questions about why adult ADHD is so complicated?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear from you if you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional.
¹ The British Journal of Psychiatry: Prevalence and correlates of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: meta-analysis
² National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults: What You Need to Know
⁴ Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders: Developmental comorbidity in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
⁶ medicine (MDPI): ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in Adulthood: Clinical and Treatment Implications
⁷ Disability Compliance for Higher Education: Understand and address complexities of rejection sensitive dysphoria in students with ADHD
⁹ European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Risk factors for comorbid oppositional defiant disorder in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
¹⁰ Medical Science Monitor: Clinical Implications of the Perception of Time in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Review
¹¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
¹² SAMHSA Advisory: Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Prevention Among Youth and Young Adults