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ADULT ADHD

ADHD is a chronic condition, beginning in early childhood and persisting throughout a


person's lifetime. It is estimated that 33-66% of children with ADHD will continue to
have significant ADHD-related symptoms persisting into adulthood, resulting in a
significant impact on education, employment, and interpersonal relationships.
Many people have heard of ADHD. It may make you think of kids who have trouble
paying attention or who are hyperactive or impulsive. Adults can have ADHD, too. About
4% to 5% of U.S. adults have it. But few adults get diagnosed or treated for it.

Who gets adult ADHD?


Every adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Some may have been diagnosed and known it. But
some may have not been diagnosed when they were young and only find out later in life.
While many kids with ADHD outgrow it, about 60% still have it as adults. Adult ADHD seems
to affect men and women equally.

Adult ADHD Symptoms


If you have adult ADHD, you may find it hard to:
Follow directions
Remember information
Concentrate
Organize tasks
Finish work on time
This can cause trouble in many parts of life -- at home, at work, or at school. Getting treatment
and learning ways to manage ADHD can help. Most people learn to adapt. And adults with
ADHD can develop their personal strengths and find success.

Challenges People With Adult ADHD Face


If you have ADHD, you may have trouble with:
Anxiety
Chronic boredom
Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
Depression
Trouble concentrating when reading
Trouble controlling anger
Problems at work
Impulsiveness
Low tolerance for frustration
Low self-esteem
Mood swings
Poor organization skills
Procrastination
Relationship problems

Substance abuse or addiction


These may affect you a lot, or they may not bother you much. They can be problems all of the
time or just depend on the situation.
No two people with ADHD are exactly alike. If you have ADHD, you may be able to concentrate
if youre interested in or excited about what youre doing. But some people with ADHD have
trouble focusing under any circumstances. Some people look for stimulation, but others avoid it.
Plus, some people with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial. Others can be very social and
go from one relationship to the next.
Problems at School

Adults With ADHD may have:


A history of not doing well in school and underachieving
Gotten in a lot of trouble
Had to repeat a grade
Dropped out of school

Problems at Work
Adults With ADHD are more likely to:
Change jobs a lot and perform poorly
Be less happy with their jobs and have fewer successes at work

Problems in Life
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
Get more speeding tickets, have their license suspended, or be involved in more crashes
Smoke cigarettes
Use alcohol or drugs more often
Have less money
Say they have psychological trouble like being depressed or haveanxiety

Relationship Problems
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
Have more marital problems
Get separated and divorced more often
Have multiple marriages

How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed?


- A physical exam to rule out other medical problems
- Health history
While experts dont agree on an age that you can first diagnose ADHD, they do agree that people
dont suddenly develop it as an adult. Thats why when a doctor sees you they will ask about
your behavior and any symptoms that you may have had as a child. They may also:
Look at school report cards. Theyll look for comments about behavior problems, poor
focus, lack of effort, or underachievement compared to your potential.
Talk with your parents to see if you had any symptoms during childhood.

People who have ADHD may have had trouble getting along with others when they were kids or
had a hard time in school. Teachers may have had to work with you. For example, maybe you
had to sit at the front of the class.
Theyll also ask if anyone else in your family has ADHD. This can be helpful information
because it does seem like ADHD runs in families.
How Is Adult ADHD Treated?
- Treatment plans can include medicine, therapy, education or learning more about ADHD,
and getting family support.
-

Making sure you get fully checked by a doctor is important. Thats because people with
ADHD often face other conditions, too. You may also have a learning disability, anxiety
or another mood disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or a dependence on drugs
or alcohol. Knowing the whole picture can make sure you get the best plan for you.

Medications to Treat Adult ADHD


Stimulant Medications. Adults with ADHD are often offered stimulant medications. Studies
show that about two-thirds of adults with ADHD who take these medications have big
improvements in their symptoms.

Examples of stimulant medications include:


Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine)
Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Quillivant)
But stimulants are not always ideal. Why? They can be:
Addictive. Stimulants are controlled substances. That means you may get hooked on
them. Some adults with ADHD have substance abuse problems or had them in the past.
Hard to remember to take. Short-acting types of stimulants (versus long-acting) may
wear off quickly. Since people with ADHD can have trouble with forgetfulness, remembering to
take them several times a day can be a challenge.
Hard to time. If people choose to stop taking them in the evening, they can have a hard
time focusing to do housework, pay bills, help children with homework, or drive. But if they do
take them later in the day, they may be tempted to use alcohol or other things "to relax."
Non-Stimulant Medications. Doctors may also recommend a non-stimulant medication for you
to take, either on its own or with a stimulant. They are:
Atomoxetine (Strattera)
Guanfacine (Intuniv)
Clonidine (Kapvay)
Therapy and Other Behavioral Treatments

You may want to ask about making these part of your treatment plan, too:
Cognitive and behavioral therapy. It can help with self-esteem.
Relaxation training and stress management. These can lower anxiety and stress.
Life coaching. It may help you set goals. Plus, it can help you learn new ways to stay
organized at home and work.
Job coaching or mentoring. This can help support you at work. It can help you have
better working relationships and improve on-the-job performance.
Family education and therapy. This can help you and loved ones understand ADHD
better. It can also help you all find ways to lessen how much it affects everyones life.
Other Things You Can Do to Manage ADHD
Here are some things you can do on your own to make life with ADHD more manageable:
Take medications as directed. If you are taking any medications for ADHD or any other
condition, take them exactly as prescribed. Taking two doses at once to catch up on missed doses
can be bad for you and others. If you notice side effects or other problems, talk to your doctor as
soon as possible.
Organize. Make lists of daily tasks (be reasonable!) and work to complete them. Use a
daily planner, leave notes for yourself, and set your alarm clock when you need to remember an
appointment or other activity.
Breathe slowly. If you have a tendency to do things you later regret, such as interrupt
others or get angry at others, manage the impulse by pausing. Count to 10 while you breathe
slowly instead of acting out. Usually the impulse will pass as quickly as it appeared.
Cut down on distractions. If you find yourself being distracted by loud music or the
television, turn it off or use earplugs. Move yourself to a quieter location, or ask others to help
make things less distracting.
Burn off extra energy. You may need a way to get rid of some energy if youre
hyperactive or feel restless. Exercise, a hobby, or another pastime can be good choices.
Ask for help. We all need help from time to time, and it's important to not be afraid to
ask for it. If you have disruptive thoughts or behaviors, ask a counselor if they have any ideas
you can try that could help you control them.

10 PROBLEMS THAT COULD MEAN ADULT ADHD

No. 1: Trouble Getting Organized


For people with ADHD, the responsibilities of adulthood -- bills, jobs, and children, to name a
few -- can make problems with organization more obvious and more problematic than in
childhood.

No. 2: Reckless Driving and Traffic Accidents


ADHD makes it hard to keep your attention on a task, so spending time behind the wheel of a car
can be hard. ADHD symptoms can make some people more likely to speed, have traffic
accidents, and lose their drivers licenses.

No. 3: Marital Trouble


Many people without ADHD have marital problems, so a troubled marriage shouldnt necessarily
be seen as a red flag for adult ADHD. But there are some marriage problems that are likely to
affect therelationships of those with ADHD. Often, the partners of people with undiagnosed
ADHD take poor listening skills and an inability to honor commitments as a sign that their
partner doesnt care. If youre the person with ADHD, you may not understand why your partner
is upset, and you may feel youre being nagged or blamed for something thats not your fault.

No. 4: Extremely Distractible


ADHD is a problem with attention, so adult ADHD can make it hard to succeed in todays fastpaced, hustle-bustle world. Many people find that distractibility can lead to a history of career
under-performance, especially in noisy or busy offices. If you have adult ADHD, you might find
that phone calls or email derail your attention, making it hard for you to finish tasks.

No. 5: Poor Listening Skills


Do you zone out during long business meetings? Did your husband forget to pick up your child
at baseball practice, even though you called to remind him on his way home? Problems with
attention result in poor listening skills in many adults with ADHD, leading to a lot of missed
appointments and misunderstandings.

No. 6: Restlessness, Trouble Relaxing

While many children with ADHD are hyperactive, this ADHD symptom often appears
differently in adults. Rather than bouncing off the walls, adults with ADHD are more likely to be
restless or find they cant relax. If you have adult ADHD, others might describe you as edgy or
tense.

No. 7: Trouble Starting a Task


Just as children with ADHD often put off doing homework, adults with ADHD often drag their
feet when starting tasks that require a lot of attention. This procrastination often adds to existing
problems, including marital disagreements, workplace issues, and problems with friends.

No. 8: Lateness
There are many reasons for this. First, adults with ADHD are often distracted on the way to an
event, maybe realizing the car needs to be washed and then noticing theyre low on gas, and
before they know it an hour has gone by. People with adult ADHD also tend to underestimate
how much time it takes to finish a task, whether its a major assignment at work or a simple
home repair.

No. 9: Angry Outbursts


ADHD often leads to problems with controlling emotions. Many people with adult ADHD are
quick to explode over minor problems. Often, they feel as if they have no control over their
emotions. Many times, their anger fades as quickly as it flared, long before the people who dealt
with the outburst have gotten over the incident.

No. 10: Prioritizing Issues


Often, people with adult ADHD mis-prioritize, failing to meet big obligations, like a deadline at
work, while spending countless hours on something insignificant.

Signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD


In adults, attention deficit disorder often looks quite different than it does in childrenand its
symptoms are unique for each individual. The following categories highlight common symptoms
of adult ADD/ADHD. Do your best to identify the areas where you experience difficulty. Once
you pinpoint your most problematic symptoms, you can start to work on strategies for dealing
with them.

Trouble concentrating and staying focused


Adults with ADD/ADHD often have difficulty staying focused and attending to daily, mundane
tasks. For example, you may be easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bounce
from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes
overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADD/ADHD symptoms of
hyperactivity and impulsivitybut they can be every bit as troublesome. The symptoms of
inattention and concentration difficulties include:

zoning out without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation


extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track
difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others
struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple
tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work
poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions

Hyperfocus
While youre probably aware that people with ADD/ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that
arent interesting to them, you may not know that theres another side: a tendency to become

absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called
hyperfocus.
Hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for distractiona way of tuning out the chaos. It can
be so strong that you become oblivious to everything going on around you. For example, you
may be so engrossed in a book, a TV show, or your computer that you completely lose track of
time and neglect the things youre supposed to be doing. Hyperfocus can be an asset when
channeled into productive activities, but it can also lead to work and relationship problems if left
unchecked.

Disorganization and forgetfulness


When you have adult ADD/ADHD, life often seems chaotic and out of control. Staying
organized and on top of things can be extremely challengingas is sorting out what information
is relevant for the task at hand, prioritizing the things you need to do, keeping track of tasks and
responsibilities, and managing your time. Common symptoms of disorganization and
forgetfulness include:

poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
tendency to procrastinate
trouble starting and finishing projects
chronic lateness
frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks

Impulsivity
If you suffer from symptoms in this category, you may have trouble inhibiting your behaviors,
comments, and responses. You might act before thinking, or react without considering
consequences. You may find yourself interrupting others, blurting out comments, and rushing
through tasks without reading instructions. If you have impulse problems, being patient is
extremely difficult. For better or for worse, you may go headlong into situations and find
yourself in potentially risky circumstances. You may struggle with controlling impulses if you:

frequently interrupt others or talk over them


have poor self-control
blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
have addictive tendencies

act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences


have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long
meeting)

Emotional difficulties
Many adults with ADD/ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings, especially when it
comes to emotions like anger or frustration. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD
include:

sense of underachievement
doesnt deal well with frustration
easily flustered and stressed out
irritability or mood swings
trouble staying motivated
hypersensitivity to criticism
short, often explosive, temper
low self-esteem and sense of insecurity

Hyperactivity or restlessness
Hyperactivity in adults with ADD/ADHD can look the same as it does in kids. You may be
highly energetic and perpetually on the go as if driven by a motor. For many people with
ADD/ADHD, however, the symptoms of hyperactivity become more subtle and internal as they
grow older. Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults include:

feelings of inner restlessness, agitation


tendency to take risks
getting bored easily
racing thoughts
trouble sitting still; constant fidgeting
craving for excitement
talking excessively
doing a million things at once

You dont have to be hyperactive to have ADD / ADHD

Adults with ADD/ADHD are much less likely to be hyperactive than their younger counterparts.
Only a small slice of adults with ADD/ADHD, in fact, suffer from prominent symptoms of
hyperactivity. Remember that names can be deceiving and you may very well have ADD/ADHD
if you have one or more of the symptoms aboveeven if you lack hyperactivity.

Untreated ADD/ADHD has wide-reaching effects


ADD/ADHD that is undiagnosed and untreated can cause problems in virtually every area of
your life.

Physical and mental health problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can contribute to
a variety of health problems, including compulsive eating, substance abuse, anxiety,
chronic stress and tension, and low self-esteem. You may also run into trouble due to
neglecting important check-ups, skipping doctor appointments, ignoring medical
instructions, and forgetting to take vital medications.
Work and financial difficulties. Adults with ADD/ADHD often experience career
difficulties and feel a strong sense of underachievement. You may have trouble keeping a
job, following corporate rules, meeting deadlines, and sticking to a 9-to-5 routine.
Managing finances may also be a problem: you may struggle with unpaid bills, lost
paperwork, late fees, or debt due to impulsive spending.
Relationship problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can put a strain on your work,
love, and family relationships. You may be fed up with constant nagging from loved ones
to tidy up, listen more closely, or get organized. Those close to you, on the other hand,
may feel hurt and resentful over your perceived irresponsibility or insensitivity.

The wide-reaching effects of ADD/ADHD can lead to embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness,


disappointment, and loss of confidence. You may feel like youll never be able to get your life
under control. Thats why a diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD can be an enormous source of relief
and hope. It helps you understand what youre up against for the first time and realize that youre
not to blame. The difficulties youve had are symptoms of attention deficit disordernot the
result of personal weakness or a character flaw.

Adult ADD/ADHD doesnt have to hold you back


When you have ADD/ADHD, its easy to end up thinking that theres something wrong with
you. But its okay to be different. ADD/ADHD isnt an indicator of intelligence or capability.

Certain things may be more difficult for you, but that doesnt mean you cant find your niche and
achieve success. The key is to find out what your strengths are and capitalize on them.
It can be helpful to think about attention deficit disorder as a collection of traits that are both
positive and negativejust like any other set of qualities you might possess. Along with the
impulsivity and disorganization of ADD/ADHD, for example, often come incredible creativity,
passion, energy, out-of-the-box thinking, and a constant flow of original ideas. Figure out what
youre good at and set up your environment to support those strengths.

Self-help for adult ADD / ADHD


Armed with an understanding of ADD/ADHDs challenges and the help of structured strategies,
you can make real changes in your life. Many adults with attention deficit disorder have found
meaningful ways to manage their symptoms, take advantage of their gifts, and lead productive
and satisfying lives. You dont necessarily need outside interventionat least not right away.
There is a lot you can do to help yourself and get your symptoms under control.

Exercise and eat right. Exercise vigorously and regularlyit helps work off excess
energy and aggression in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Eat a wide
variety of healthy foods and limit sugary foods in order to even out mood swings.
Get plenty of sleep. When youre tired, its even more difficult to focus, manage stress,
stay productive, and keep on top of your responsibilities. Support yourself by getting
between 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Practice better time management. Set deadlines for everything, even for seemingly
small tasks. Use timers and alarms to stay on track. Take breaks at regular intervals.
Avoid piles of paperwork or procrastination by dealing with each item as it comes in.
Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down every assignment, message, or important
thought.
Work on your relationships. Schedule activities with friends and keep your
engagements. Be vigilant in conversation: listen when others are speaking and try not to
speak too quickly yourself. Cultivate relationships with people who are sympathetic and
understanding of your struggles with ADD/ADHD.
Create a supportive work environment. Make frequent use of lists, color-coding,
reminders, notes-to-self, rituals, and files. If possible, choose work that motivates and
interests you. Notice how and when you work best and apply these conditions to your
working environment as best you can. It can help to team up with less creative, more
organized peoplea partnership that can be mutually beneficial.

When to seek outside help for adult ADD / ADHD


If the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are still getting in the way of your life, despite self-help efforts
to manage them, it may be time to seek outside support. Adults with ADD/ADHD can benefit
from a number of treatments, including behavioral coaching, individual therapy, self-help
groups, vocational counseling, educational assistance, and medication.
Treatment for adults with attention deficit disorder, like treatment for kids, should involve a team
of professionals, along with the persons family members and spouse.

Professionals trained in ADD/ADHD can help you:

control impulsive behaviors


manage your time and money
get and stay organized
boost productivity at home and work
manage stress and anger
communicate more clearly

Inattentive-type (ADHD-PI)

Hyperactive/Impulsive-type (ADHD-PH)

In children:

Forgetful during daily activities

Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

Losing important items (e.g. pencils,


homework, toys, etc.)

Always asking for attention, but

Not listening and not responding to


name being called out

Unable to focus on tasks at hand,


cannot sustain attention in activities

Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring


sustained mental effort

Makes careless mistakes by failing to


pay attention to details

Difficulty organizing tasks and


activities

Fails to follow-through on complex


instructions and tasks (e.g. homework,
chores, etc.)

In children:

Squirms and fidgets (with hands


and/or feet)

Cannot sit still

Cannot play quietly or engage in


leisurely activities

Talks excessively

Runs and climbs excessively

Always on the go, as if "driven by a


motor"

Cannot wait for their turn

Blurts out answers

Intrudes on others and interrupts


conversations

In adults, these evolve into:

Avoiding tasks or jobs that require


concentration

Procrastination

Difficulty initiating tasks

Difficulty organizing details required


for a task

Difficulty recalling details required for


a task

Difficulty multitasking

Poor time management, losing track of


time

Indecision and doubt

Hesitation of execution

Difficulty persevering or completing


and following through on tasks

Delayed stop and transition of


concentration from one task to another

In adults:

Chooses highly active, stimulating


jobs

Avoids situations with low physical


activity or sedentary work

May choose to work long hours or


two jobs

Seeks constant activity

Easily bored

Impatient

Intolerant and frustrated, easily


irritated

Impulsive, snap decisions and


irresponsible behaviors

Loses temper easily, angers quickly

The tendency to hyperfocus on


particularly stimulating or emotionally
engaging tasks.