Adult ADHD: Signs and Symptoms

Every adult diagnosed with ADHD also had the condition as a child, but they may have never received a diagnosis or treatment.

Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD in adults, affects about five percent of adults in the United States. Adult ADHD does not develop late in life; ADHD typically develops by the age of twelve (and has been diagnosed in children as young as three). Every adult diagnosed with ADHD also had the condition as a child, but they may have never received a diagnosis or treatment. Some children outgrow ADHD as they enter adulthood, but the condition persists in about 60% of diagnosed children.

As it is in children, ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental condition which affects behavior, judgment, the ability to focus and the process of making decisions. In adulthood, ADHD can be detrimental to an individual’s ability to function well in society, succeed at work and maintain healthy relationships.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adults?

Most often the signs and symptoms of ADHD can be easily detected and diagnosed in children who not only display fairly obvious signs, but also are under the constant observation of their parents, teachers, coaches and other caregivers. Adult ADHD, however, often goes undiagnosed because, although it causes similar symptoms, it presents itself in more subtle ways and while fewer people are watching.

Signs of ADHD in adults include:

  • finding it difficult to follow directions
  • having trouble remembering information
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty organizing tasks
  • trouble meeting deadlines

Adults with ADHD also commonly experience:

  • anxiety and depression
  • relentless boredom
  • insomnia, difficulty sleeping and fatigue
  • chronic forgetfulness and tardiness
  • time management problems
  • incomplete projects
  • poor planning and organizational skills
  • mood swings and difficulty controlling anger
  • problems at work and in relationships
  • impulsiveness and rash decision making
  • impatience and a low tolerance for frustration
  • chronic procrastination and low motivation
  • low self-esteem
  • addiction and substance abuse problems

Adults with ADHD also often have driving records, including speeding tickets and distracted driving. Oftentimes they interrupt others during conversation and skip ahead to finish other people’s thoughts. In addition, while most adults know that it is not socially acceptable to fidget constantly and bounce off the walls, they still experience extreme feelings of restlessness when circumstances require that they sit still.

How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed and Treated?

A thorough medical evaluation must take place before a doctor will officially diagnose an individual with ADHD. The diagnosis will include a complete physical examination, thorough discussion and evaluation of symptoms, blood tests and the ruling out of other potential conditions. Adults diagnosed with ADHD usually receive a combination of treatments and therapies, including:

  • stimulant medications
  • non-stimulant medications
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • relaxation, meditation and stress management training and techniques
  • counseling
  • marriage counseling
  • job coaching
  • life coaching

Adults with ADHD can improve organization and task completion with lists and schedules. They can improve concentration by reducing environmental distractions, and they can manage anxiety with deep breathing.

By recognizing their condition, adults can take a proactive approach to counteracting ADHD. Adults who receive a prescription for an ADHD medication should be sure to carefully follow the instructions for administration and not stop or change dosage without first consulting with a medical professional. With a combination of treatment, counseling and self-improvement, adults can overcome the challenges of living with ADHD to lead successful, fulfilling lives.