For many years it was believed that ADHD was a childhood disorder which the individual would outgrow. The medical and mental health community relied on criteria used to diagnose children and teens as the measure of whether and adult had ADHD. While many of those traits can persist into adulthood, they typically look different in adults than they do in children.
Adults often continue to show more of the inattentive symptoms of ADHD, and if they were hyperactive as children, are likely to be less so as adults. Keep in mind too that our brain’s continue to mature and we learn coping skills over time to compensate for some of our difficulties. At the same time, there are more demands put on us as obligations of work, education, and family becoming increasingly complex. So as we are developing skills to handle familiar demands, new ones present themselves as we get older. ADHD is still there, it might just look different.
Despite what many adults hope about themselves, it is now accepted that most people do not outgrow ADHD. If you were diagnosed as a kid (or you suspect you had it as a kid), you still have the same brain. The challenges and symptoms might just look a bit different now.
|Inattention||Difficulty sustaining attention||Difficulty sustaining attention (meetings, reading, paperwork)|
|Failure to pay attention to details||Makes careless errors|
|Appears not to listen||Easily distracted/forgetful|
|Lacks follow through||Poor concentration|
|Cannot organize||Difficulty finishing tasks|
|Loses important items||Disorganized/misplaces items|
|Hyperactivity||Squirming, fidgeting||Inefficiencies at work|
|Cannot stay seated||Internal restlessness|
|Cannot wait turn||Difficulty sitting through meetings|
|Runs/climbs excessively||Works more than 1 job|
|Cannot play/work quietly||Works long hours|
|“On the go”/driven by motor||Self-selects very active job|
|Impulsivity||Blurts out answers||Impulsive job changes|
|Cannot wait in line||Drives too fast|
|Intrudes/interrupts others||Interrupts others|
Statistics and Facts
A 2006 survey reported that:
- 4.4 % of American adults (roughly 8 million) have ADHD.
- That’s 1 in 20 adults in the U.S.
- Research suggests that only 15% of adults with ADHD have been formally diagnosed and treated.
ADHD adults are:
- Two-thirds are more likely to have been fired from jobs
- 3 times more likely to have impulsively quit jobs
- 33% percent more likely to have chronic employment difficulties
- 50% more likely to have changed jobs in a given period
- Twice as likely to separate or divorce
- Likely to abuse substances earlier and longer if not properly medicated
- Going to have 1 to 4 co-existing conditions during their lifetimes such as:
- Learning disabilities (dyslexia and processing disorders)
- Antisocial disorders
- Substance abuse or addictions
- Sleep issues
Adults with ADHD can also be:
- Highly intelligent (42% with IQ’s of 120 and above)
- Extremely creative, making intuitive leaps and connections
- Quite intuitive or empathic
- Highly energetic and willing to work very hard
- Driven and often entrepreneurial
- Counted on to act in a genuine, authentic and honest way.
- Have zest, enthusiasm and energy for life.
- A loyal team member.
- Someone who treats all people equally with no bias.
- Able to forgive others and not hold a grudge.
- Appreciative of Beauty and excellence
- Always optimistic about the future.
The diagnostic criteria for ADHD
(See my post on Diagnostic Criteria of ADHD)
The criteria used to diagnose ADHD is focused primarily on children and adolescents. There are many adult symptoms that are not reflected in these criteria. Some of the ways that ADHD can affect adults include:
- Detailed and tedious tasks, such as doing income taxes, become very stressful.
- Great starter, bad finisher.
- Difficulty staying with boring jobs.
- Long conversations may become difficult to follow.
- Failure to follow through on commitments at home or work (not based on a conscious choice to simply not do the task).
- Inability to consistently keep accounts, pay bills on time, etc.
- Needs external deadlines to get things done.
- Recurrent lateness, missed appointments, and missed deadlines.
- Poor sense of time. Inefficient. Items on to-do lists are not completed.
- Procrastination, despite knowledge of the consequences.
- Frequently loses keys, cell phones, purses/wallets, work assignments, parked cars, household items, and so forth.
- Memory problems – For example, goes to supermarket with a mental list of items to buy and forgets half of them.
(b) Feels restless at long dinners out or during long conversations. Prefers active pursuits.
(c) Internal restlessness.
(d) May be a workaholic. Talks during movies. Has difficulty moderating speech volume.
(e) Takes a long time to get a point across. Often diverges into tangents and even interrupts own thoughts.
- Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
- Says things without thinking. Frequently puts foot in mouth.
(c) Irritated waiting for children or other slow people to complete something. Impatient in traffic or waiting in line.
(d) Impatience while watching others struggle with something without jumping in to help.