Nowadays, life as an adult can seem overwhelming, so it's not uncommon to find yourself forgetting something on your to-do list or your mom's birthday. However, if you find yourself disorganized, forgetful, unable to focus, and overwhelmed, you may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Those diagnosed with childhood ADHD can experience some of the symptoms in adulthood. But, even if you weren't diagnosed as a child, it doesn't mean ADHD can't affect you as an adult. In fact, ADHD can hinder your relationships and your work.
As adults, we constantly try to juggle many things, like succeeding at work and raising a family. With that comes the need to organize, focus, and remain calm. This is stressful and challenging for anyone, but it can feel impossible if you have adult ADHD. We put together this guide to help you recognize the common symptoms of adult ADHD and learn ways in which you can better manage them.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurological condition that combines continuing problems, such as difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Adult ADHD can interfere with everyday life as well as contribute to unstable relationships, poor job or school performance and low self-esteem amongst other issues.
Causes of ADHD
While scientists aren't exactly sure what causes ADHD, recent studies show that a combination of certain genetic and environmental factors, as well as small differences in how the brain is hardwired can contribute to developing the condition.
Researchers continue to investigate causes and risk factors to find better ways to manage and reduce a person's chances of having ADHD. This includes studying:
People exposed to environmental risk during pregnancy or in early childhood (i.e., lead)
Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
Those born prematurely
Those born with a low birth weight
Signs and Symptoms of Adult ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define due to the lack of research into adults with ADHD. Symptoms also tend to be more subtle or even experienced differently than in a child's symptoms. For example, hyperactivity can decrease, while inattentiveness can increase in adults with ADHD.
Easily distracted/unable to focus
While not being able to focus may seem like a prominent symptom of ADHD, it involves more than just drifting off in the middle of conversation. Adults with ADHD often find they are easily distracted, lack attention to detail, cannot complete a task, and cannot follow along in conversation with others.
Children and adults with ADHD can experience an intense fixation on an interest, activity, or task for an extended period. This symptom is known as hyperfocus.
Those with ADHD often exhibit hyperfocus when working closely on things they are interested in and become so engaged they block out much of the world around them.
Those with adult ADHD often experience severe and chronic disorganization. From time to time, we all misplace something or have clutter, but someone with ADHD is constantly unable to store, find, and use items they need. This leads to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Trouble with time management
In addition to disorganization, adults with ADHD often experience issues with managing their time. Because they cannot prioritize, they often procrastinate on tasks (especially ones that aren't interesting) and constantly rush and run late.
It's common to forget where you put your keys now and then. An adult with ADHD tends to experience forgetfulness more often. From important dates to work assignments, an adult with ADHD experiences forgetfulness more often, which can seriously affect their career and personal relationships.
Signs of forgetfulness in ADHD may include:
Repeatedly overlooking appointments, commitments, deadlines
Constantly losing or misplacing things (wallet, phone, bills).
Adults with ADHD may have trouble restraining behaviors, comments, and responses. They may also find it difficult to stay patient due to impulse problems.
Symptoms of impulsivity may include:
Talking over others or frequently interrupting
Addictive tendencies (shopping, gambling, etc.)
Blurting out rude things without thinking
Acting spontaneously without concern of consequences
Difficulty behaving appropriately in social settings
Living with ADHD can make controlling your emotions difficult. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADHD include:
Easily stressed out
Irritability/ short temper
Trouble staying motivated/becoming bored easily
Hypersensitivity to criticism
Lack of motivation
Children and adults with ADHD are commonly labeled as unmotivated or lazy, which is far from the truth. Someone with ADHD often experiences a feeling of paralysis associated with an assignment or task. They want to start, but cannot move forward due to procrastination mixed with the inability to begin, organize, and maintain the steps needed to complete the project.
Restlessness and anxiety
One symptom that is common in some children with ADHD is hyperactivity. They often have trouble sitting down, are always on the go, and have difficulty waiting their turn.
Teens and adults with ADHD can still show these same signs but are often more subtle. You still feel the need to keep moving or doing something but experience frustration and anxiety when you can't do it right away. This may lead to:
moving around constantly/ inability to sit still
fidget/mess with a pen, paperclip, ring, etc
tap hands or feet
Studies have found that although adults experience restlessness with ADHD, they can also experience chronic fatigue. Tiredness can come from side effects of medications, sleep issues, hyperactivity, and the daily responsibilities of an adult with ADHD.
Treatment options for adults with ADHD typically include medication, education, skills training, and psychological counseling. Finding out which is the best combination of these is often the most effective treatment. While these treatments are great at managing symptoms, there is no cure for ADHD. It may take some time to determine what works best for you.
Consult with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of any medications, including ADHD medicines. Your doctor may prescribe:
Other medications - Other prescriptions used to treat ADHD include non-stimulants, like Strattera and certain antidepressants such as Wellbutrin. While they both don't work as fast as stimulants, they are an excellent option for people who experience serious side effects from stimulant medications.
Because every individual reacts to medications differently, finding the proper medication at the right dose may take a few tries. Talk to your doctor about side effects and if the medicine is working for you.
Seeing a therapist or counselor can help you learn more about adult ADHD and learn skills to help you be successful while managing your symptoms. Counseling may help you improve time management and organizational skills, learn to decrease impulses, develop strong problem-solving skills, work on self-esteem, and repair relationships.
Common types of counseling for adult ADHD include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy - This structured type of counseling can help you develop skills to manage behavior and change negative thinking patterns into positive ones. It can also help you cope with challenges in work and home and address other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
Marital and family counseling - Including your loved ones in counseling can help improve communication and problem-solving skills and teach them ways to help you manage your ADHD successfully.
Around 10 million adults have ADHD, and while symptoms may seem overwhelming, there are ways to manage them effectively.
If the symptoms of ADHD are getting in the way of your life, it may be time to seek outside support. Adults with ADHD can benefit from many treatments, including behavioral coaching, individual and family therapy, and medication. At CareCard, we are passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. Learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.