Adult ADHD


It is helpful to understand the different ways symptoms of ADHD may present in childhood versus adulthood.For both children and adults, the primary symptoms that define ADHD include impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. Not all individuals with ADHD will display these symptoms in the same way or to the same degree, and you may certainly see changes in the way the symptoms manifest as an individual ages and moves through different stages of life. You mention hyperactivity, and this is one of the areas of ADHD that does seem to present a bit differently in adulthood. For example, the overt hyperactivity may not be as prevalent. Instead, a person may experience feelings of uncomfortable restlessness. Below is a listing of a few of the ways hyperactive or impulsive symptoms may present differently in children versus adults.

1. Childhood:
  • Squirming, fidgeting
  • Can't stay seated in class, meals
  • Can't wait turn
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completely asked
  • Runs and climbs excessively
  • Can't play or work quietly
  • On the go, driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Intrudes on personal space; interrupts others

2. Adulthood:
  • Needs to move; feels restless inside, fidgety
  • Can't sit through meetings, meals, movies
  • Extremely impatient
  • Finishes people's sentences; draws rapid conclusions
  • Drives too fast, reckless
  • Prefers very active job
  • On the go; low tolerance for frustration
  • Talks excessively; makes inappropriate comments
  • Interrupts others; monopolizes conversations 

Common symptoms of adult ADHD may also include poor attention; excessive distractibility; spacing out; problems with memory and forgetfulness; frequently losing things; trouble organizing steps in a project; chronic lateness; procrastination; trouble starting and finishing tasks; careless mistakes; and disorganization.
For many people with ADHD, the symptoms related to inattentiveness often become more prominent in adulthood, while the hyperactivity symptoms become ones that are felt much more internally than observed outwardly.

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" 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. An accurate diagnosis can only be made by a trained professional. Depression, bipolar disorder, substance addictions, anxiety, phobias - all may share some similar symptoms to ADHD, so it is important that your doctor rule out other conditions that require different treatment.

Many females with ADD remain undiagnosed until adulthood. Some are overlooked altogether and never diagnosed.People are becoming more and more aware of adult ADD in general. There is also a better understanding about the differences in the way symptoms can often present in women versus men with ADD. In addition, there appears to be more and more awareness of the “predominantly inattentive” subtype of ADD that is more common in females. Rather than displaying the hyperactive, disruptive symptoms that are more noticeable, these females may present as introverted, shy, distractible, disorganized, forgetful, and daydreamy. They may have a low tolerance for stress, be extremely sensitive to criticism, and work hard to conform to adult expectations.
If a female has more of the hyperactive-impulsive symptoms of ADD, she may present as hyper-talkative and hyper-social. She may have intense emotional reactions or be described as stubborn or argumentative. She may have poor self control, in addition to being distractible, inattentive, and disorganized. (Read more about How Hyperactivity May Present Differently in Adults with ADD v. Children).

ADD Symptoms in Women are Real
Many women with ADD also experience the following conditions:
  • Dysphoria
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Chronic Sleep Deprivation
  • Compulsive Overeating