Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
September 20, 2021
Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Adult ADHD is a condition that affects your daily functioning as an adult. The signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults are similar to those found in children, but the severity can be greater.

One of the most common ADHD side effects is difficulty completing tasks; we will discuss this symptom further below. Other ADHD symptoms include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and low self-esteem.

If you think you might have ADHD as an adult or suspect that someone close to you has it, then read on!

This blog post will provide information about how adult ADHD is diagnosed and treated; we’ll also talk about what you can do to manage your condition.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the executive functions of the brain. 

The executive functions include a person’s ability to:

  • organize
  • plan ahead
  • focus their attention on something specific or abstract
  • pay attention in the presence of distractions
  • and manage impulses.

Adults with ADHD have problems in all these areas that make it difficult for them to get things done. 

And according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD affects about two percent of American adults.  

Types of ADHD in Adults

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a group of behavioral symptoms with three subtypes:

  • Inattentive ADHD
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
  • Combined Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. 

Inattentive ADHD

Adults with this type of ADHD have a hard time focusing on conversations, tasks at work or school, and other daily activities. 

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

This ADHD subtype is characterized by having trouble sitting still for long periods of time; people with hyperactivity often fidget or squirm around in their chairs and on their seats. 

Combined Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

This type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types; it affects about half of adults with ADHD.

Although adult ADHD medically reviewed can look different in each person, specific symptoms may be shared among subtypes.

For example, the NIMH reports that adults with Inattentive ADHD often have problems staying organized and following through on tasks.

They also tend to daydream a lot and become distracted quickly by irrelevant details.

Adults with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD often lack the ability to control their urges, which can lead them into trouble. They may act or speak before thinking about what they are doing.

And combined subtypes have both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms along with impulsivity. These differences affect how ADHD is diagnosed.

Adults ADHD Diagnosis

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a reference guide for psychiatric professionals used to diagnose adult ADHD. 

In order to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, an adult must have the symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive subtypes or combined type.

According to research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, ADHD is diagnosed when the patient has at least six symptoms.  

ADHD Symptoms for Adults

The DSM-IV lists nine ADHD hyperactive and impulsive symptoms grouped into three categories:

Inattention

Inattention refers to a lack of attention or concentration on details that should be obvious; it can cause problems with following instructions and completing tasks.

Hyperactivity

For example, hyperactivity describes the urge to be constantly in motion; this includes fidgeting, squirming, and pacing while sitting.

Other Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder symptoms include excessive talking or blurting out answers before questions are completed. And adults with ADHD may find it difficult to wait their turn in a conversation.

Impulsivity

Impulsivity refers to acting or speaking without thinking; it can cause problems with self-control and interrupting others while talking.

It’s important to note that while adult ADHD symptoms may be common among subtypes, each person is unique and will experience the condition differently. 

Adult ADHD Treatment

According to the NIMH, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is often treated with medications along with talk therapy. 

Medications are designed to help people focus their attention better, so they can complete tasks and activities without being distracted by irrelevant stimuli.

The NIMH reports that medication options for Attention Disorder Hyperactive Disorder include stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall).

Other ADHD medications include:

  • atomoxetine hydrochloride (Strattera)
  • lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse)
  • bupropion
  • guanfacine extended-release
  • clonidine.

Talk therapy is also used in adult ADHD treatment to help patients understand the disorder, what’s happening in their brain when they have trouble focusing on daily tasks.

This can work with medication to improve symptoms of ADHD and provide support for managing associated conditions like anxiety disorder or depression.

Adult ADHD Treatment Options

According to research published in the journal, Current Psychiatry Reports, ADHD treatment options, including the following:

  • behavioral therapy
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • psychotherapy

There are also ADHD support groups that can be beneficial for patients with this condition.

They provide a place to share experiences and advice on living with ADHD symptoms in daily life. 

Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults

According to research published in the journal, National Institute of Mental Health, adult ADHD may be undiagnosed when these symptoms are overlooked:

  • impulsivity
  • emotional reactivity
  • inattention

When Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is present but not diagnosed, it can lead to problems at work and school or difficulty maintaining relationships with family and friends.

It can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse disorders.

The ADHD diagnosis process in adults often starts with a medical history of symptoms to determine if there are enough ADHD signs in the patient’s behavior for further testing.

If ADHD is suspected, diagnostic tests that measure attention spans over time can be conducted to determine ADHD diagnosis.

Treatment for ADHD is often successful, so it’s important to seek professional help early on by speaking with a doctor or mental health counselor about ADHD signs and symptoms.

ADHD in Adults and Relationships

In a 2014 survey of adults with symptoms of ADHD who were single or dating at least once in their lives, more than half said they had been diagnosed or treated for ADHD by a healthcare professional.

About 36% reported that adult ADHD symptoms interfered with their adult relationships.

This shows that ADHD treatment can help improve the symptoms, which in turn may have a positive effect on adult romantic relationships.

Once adults are diagnosed and treated for ADHD, they may find it easier to maintain healthy friendships or even get into a committed relationship if that’s what they want.

ADHD in Adults and Work

In a survey of adults diagnosed with symptoms of ADHD who were employed full-time or part-time, most reported that ADHD didn’t prevent them from working successfully.

However, ADHD symptoms caused some issues, including:

  • difficulty staying organized and on task
  • trouble managing time, which led to missed deadlines or arriving late for scheduled meetings
  • excessive multitasking that resulted in making careless mistakes at work.

In ADHD treatment, patients may be given strategies to help improve their ability to function at work.

This can include techniques for organizing workspace and time management tools like a calendar or task list.

There are also adult ADHD support groups that offer professional advice on how best to deal with symptoms of ADHD in the workplace. 

ADHD in Adults and Driving

In a survey of adults who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more than half stated that they had problems getting their license renewed due to issues related to ADHD.

Common issues include:

  • getting easily distracted
  • inability to stay focused on driving
  • poor time management resulting in poor judgment behind the wheel

Once ADHD treatment starts, these issues can be improved or eliminated.

This makes it easier for patients with ADHD to drive without problems that could result in a car accident and injury.

Living with Adult ADHD

In a survey of adults, diagnosed with ADHD symptoms, who were not married at the time, more than half stated that ADHD made it difficult for them to maintain healthy friendships or romantic relationships.

They also reported problems related to ADHD, including:

  • difficulty working effectively at their job or in school
  • inability to concentrate long enough to get things done
  • lack of motivation for doing household chores and other responsibilities.

Once ADHD is diagnosed, treatment can help improve adult relationships because it improves concentration on tasks at home and work. 

And once adults with ADHD receive adequate treatment, they can begin enjoying their life more fully with family, friends, and work colleagues.

Can adult ADHD be treated?

In a survey of adults who had symptoms of ADHD and were diagnosed with it by a healthcare professional, most said they started receiving treatment for ADHD at some point during their life.

The main types of ADHD treatments are medications like stimulants, non-stimulant medications, and antidepressants.

The ADHD treatment goal is to reduce the symptoms of the disorder so that patients can achieve their full potential in life.

Can adult ADHD be cured?

There’s no cure for ADHD because it’s a lifelong condition similar to other chronic health issues like asthma or diabetes.

However, ADHD treatments can help control the symptoms so that they’re not as severe or disruptive to daily life.

Once adults are diagnosed with ADHD and begin receiving effective treatment for it, their quality of life improves dramatically because they have more energy, better focus on tasks at work and home, find it easier to maintain adult relationships and feel happier.

Are adults with ADHD immature?

Many adults with adult ADHD don’t act their age due to the disorder.

For example, they may be in a committed romantic relationship but still want to go out and party every night of the week without taking responsibility for starting or maintaining an adult relationship.

This is because ADHD symptoms often cause people to misjudge situations or make bad decisions that can lead to regret later on.

Once ADHD is diagnosed and effective ADHD treatments are started, most adults find it easier to act their age because they have more energy for adult responsibilities like being a spouse or parent.

They also have the ability to focus better at work so that they’re able to be more productive and earn a better income.

Is adult ADHD an epidemic?

ADHD is not considered to be in the same category as epidemics like obesity or smoking because it’s not infectious and can’t spread from person to person.

However, symptoms of ADHD are widespread, so many adults go undiagnosed for years simply because they don’t realize they have ADHD and aren’t even aware that it’s a treatable condition. 

Once ADHD is diagnosed and effective adult ADHD treatments are started, most adults feel more satisfied with their lives because they can finally focus on the things that matter, like family, friends, work, or starting a new hobby.

What can you do for adult ADHD in women?

Many women around the world often go undiagnosed with ADHD because women mask and present themselves better than men. 

Also, ADHD symptoms in women are often overlooked because they can be mistaken for depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health issues.

However, adult ADHD is a treatable condition that affects millions of people around the world, and it’s just as common among adult women as adult men, with an estimated prevalence rate of approximately 20%.

Once ADHD is diagnosed and treatments are started, most women feel more satisfied with their lives because they can focus better on the things that matter, like family or work.

Can adult ADHD get worse if untreated?

Yes, symptoms of ADHD can get worse if it’s not treated in a timely manner.

Also, ADHD is often associated with other mental health conditions like anxiety disorder and depression due to the fact that people who have ADHD continue to struggle even when they’re given opportunities for success because their brain often does not function normally.

Hence, the proper diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent any further mental health complications that ADHD may bring.

Concluding Thoughts

Adult ADHD is a treatable condition that affects millions of people around the world.

However, symptoms of ADHD are often undiagnosed and untreated due to the fact that many people do not realize they have this condition.

So, if you suspect that you or anyone close to you have ADHD, take advantage of this ADHD quiz to get assessed properly.

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