Adult ADHD/ADD symptoms and treatment

Whenever the term ADHD is mentioned, what comes to your mind? You probably would instantly picture a child with a hyperactive energy who can never seem to sit still and pay attention. It is after all one of the most common and well-recognized developmental disorders in children.


But what most people do not know is that 60% of those with symptoms from early childhood will continue to display prominent ADHD signs throughout adulthood. However, only a few adults are actually identified and treated with this problem. While most of us are familiar with ADHD in children, few fail to recognize the signs of ADHD in adults.


Let Us Define Adult ADHD

Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or Adult ADHD is defined into three distinct types that depend on the prominent symptoms that it manifests. Adults affected with ADHD are either predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive or a combination exhibiting symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types.

Out of the three subtypes, the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type is the most prevalent. This then followed by the predominantly inattentive or commonly referred as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), while the combination type being the least common.

adult adhd symptoms and medication

To be diagnosed with ADHD, an adult must have displayed at least six symptoms of either inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive types or all of the symptoms of both types for the combined type.

Symptoms should have also been apparent before reaching the age of seven years old and must have caused negative effects in at least two spheres of functioning and environment. However, unlike the symptoms in children, symptoms of ADHD in adults are less obvious and may be difficult to detect.

But despite its subtlety, it can still result in a significant impact in education, career and interpersonal relationships.


The Complexities of Adult ADHD

Interestingly, while ADHD in adults may result in deficiencies in terms of self-motivation and self-regulation, it does not have any effect in their learning and intelligence. In fact, there is no known difference in the intelligence of someone with ADHD and those adults who do not have the disorder.

However, difficulties, like sustaining attention, planning, organizing and decision making, are evident and can result in the underachievement in school or work and even destructive lifestyle choices, like alcoholism and substance abuse.


In most cases, adults with ADHD may also suffer from comorbidity, or a presence of one or more additional disorders. Psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as learning disabilities like dyslexia can further aggravate the difficulties that an adult with ADHD may experience.


Adult ADHD Symptoms and Warning Signs

While there are no tests that can accurately diagnose ADHD, there are indicative symptoms that can help you distinguish if an adult has ADHD. This will allow you to better understand an individual and foster better interaction rather than create an undesirable confrontation or misunderstanding.

The progression of symptoms of ADHD in adults evolves into behavioral patterns that are anchored on the symptoms that they have demonstrated during childhood.


Inattentive Type

  • Avoids tasks or jobs that require concentration
  • Easily succumbs to procrastination
  • Has difficulty in initiating tasks
  • Has difficulty organizing and recalling details required for a task
  • Has difficulty in finishing or following through tasks
  • Struggles with multi-tasking
  • Easily loses track of time or has poor time management
  • Has problems with making decisions
  • Doubts decisions
  • Hesitates in executing tasks
  • Exhibits lack of concentration when performing one task to another


Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

  • Avoids sedentary tasks or tasks with low physical activity
  • Seeks constant activity
  • Easily gets bored
  • Easily gets frustrated and displays intolerance
  • Easily irritated and impatient
  • Has a tendency to make impulsive, snappy decisions
  • Displays irresponsible behavior
  • Gets angry quickly and has a short temper
  • Restless
  • Poor Listening Skills
  • Chronic Lateness
  • Prioritizing issues


Other symptoms that may be commonly found in adults with ADHD regardless of type are poor organization skills, low concentration, low self-esteem and mood swings. These difficulties can result to problems that can affect their relationships with other people in school, work and other social interactions.


As a result, an adult with ADHD may have a history of poor educational performance, frequent school disciplinary actions and may have been underachievers in schools. In the career setting, they are most likely to have changed employers frequently, have lesser job satisfaction and work achievements.

Some are more likely to have experienced recurring marital problems and may have been engaged with multiple marriages, as incidence of separation and divorce is higher. While these may not be totally indicative, these life events can be warning signs that an adult may have ADHD.


Adult ADHD Treatments

It is recognized that Adult ADHD is not an adult-onset disorder and symptoms are exhibited during childhood. It is usually diagnosed using several instruments to determine whether an adult has ADHD during childhood. Measures may include questionnaires, discussion with parents whether an adult had ADHD during childhood, school records for behavioral problems or self-reported symptoms of the adult himself. Examinations, like physical exams, blood test and psychological testing, may also be performed.


Adult ADHD treatments are similar with those available for children, which include medication. However, since adults with ADHD are predisposed to substance abuse, medication management is included in psychosocial behavior management strategies that are incorporated as part of the treatment. This is to ensure that medications are taken as directed, as missing or upping a dose can have negative consequences.

add medication

Medications are usually incorporated with behavioral treatments to address self-esteem issues and to reduce anxiety and stress. Life coaching and job coaching is also integrated to develop strategies to organize home and work activities.


Again, it should be recognized that adult ADHD cannot be cured, however, it can be effectively managed. Knowing the telltale warning signs, symptoms and treatments available for adult ADHD can help you learn how to deal with those who are diagnosed with it harmoniously.

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