Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

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Many people incorrectly assume that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (often referred to as ADD or ADHD) is a childhood condition only. Symptoms of ADHD often continue into adulthood, however, and left untreated these symptoms can negatively impact daily activities and wreak havoc on relationships and work situations.

The fact is as many as two-thirds of children who have ADHD continue to experience symptoms of ADHD into adulthood. Because ADHD can be difficult to diagnose and so many believe that ADHD is a childhood condition, many adults attribute their struggles to stress or the fast-paced world of today, when instead they may be symptoms of undiagnosed ADHD.

Developing ADHD in Adulthood

In order to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis, some symptoms that cause impairment must have been present in childhood, meaning that while you may not be diagnosed until later in life, your ADHD did not develop in adulthood. In fact, symptoms of ADHD can emerge as early as a child's preschool years.

Possible Signs of Adult ADHD

If you think you may have ADHD, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you:

  • Get distracted easily?
  • Have difficulty concentrating on one thing at a time?
  • Tend to be disorganized?
  • Have a hard time focusing or paying attention during conversations, listening to others, or while reading?
  • Often forget things like appointments or obligations?
  • Have trouble following directions that have multiple steps?
  • Have difficulty starting and finishing projects?
  • Tend to procrastinate?
  • Have trouble prioritizing information?
  • Become impatient easily?
  • Often feel restless and antsy?
  • Lose track of time and have trouble with time management?
  • Often misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work?
  • Act before thinking through consequences?
  • Speak or blurt out before thinking about the impact your words will have on others?
  • Tend to have lots of distracting thoughts?
  • Get bored easily?
  • Tend to make careless mistakes when you have to work on a tedious or difficult project?
  • Take risks frequently?

If You Answered Yes

If you answered "yes" to the majority of these questions and the behaviors are severe enough that they interfere with your daily activities, it is possible that you have ADHD. Consider familiarizing yourself with some of the common symptoms of adult ADHD. Do these sound like your experience?

Getting Help

While you can educate yourself, an accurate diagnosis can only be made by a trained professional. Depression, bipolar disorder, substance addictions, anxiety, and phobias all may share some similar symptoms to ADHD, so it is important that you seek professional help and work with your doctor to rule out other conditions that require different treatment.

ADHD Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Mind Doc Guide

Set up an appointment with a doctor or other medical professional who is experienced in assessing and treating adult ADHD. Learn more about testing for adult ADHD. Once you are finally accurately diagnosed, you may feel a great sense of relief in finally understanding what has been causing the problematic behaviors and you can move forward with your life through treatment.

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Article Sources

  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C. 2000.
  • Lenard Adler, MD, Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., Thomas Spencer, MD. Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale Symptom Checklist. World Health Organization and the Workgroup on Adult ADHD.
  • Mark Bowes, Ph.D. ADHD in Adults: Definition and Diagnosis. Neuropsychiatry Reviews. Feb 2001.